HC Deb 08 March 1892 vol 2 cc265-307


Order for Second Reading read.

(2.11.) MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

I have to move the Second Reading of the Bill. I do not understand that there is anything in the nature of serious opposition to the Second Reading, and under the circumstances I think I can explain the character and objects of the Bill in a very few words. It is a proposal to obtain a supply of water for Birmingham and the district, from a district in Wales—the head waters of the Elan and the Claerwen, two small rivers in Wales. The Bill is intended to provide for the wants not only of the people of the City of Birmingham, but also of populations of important towns, villages, and hamlets all along a route of 15 miles on either side of the aqueduct. The towns included in the provisions of the Bill are Wolverhampton and Worcester; and many other towns in Staffordshire, including West Bromwich, Wednesbury, and other places, hereafter may find it to their interest to avail themselves of the advantages of the Bill. The population concerned at the present time numbers 1,250,000. The necessity for some such provision is urgent—in fact, the proposals of the Corporation of Birmingham have been delayed to the last moment, owing, of course, to the magnitude of the task, and their desire not to incur fresh responsibilities before it was absolutely necessary to do so. The Corporation of Birmingham acquired the water supply in 1876, and the average daily demand at that time was 8,250,000 gallons; but already in 15 years that demand has more than doubled. The demand is now 17,000,000 gallons. The maximum supply at the present time is restricted to about 20,000,000 gallons daily. Consequently, it is evident that the maximum supply will be insufficient for the average demand in the course of the next few years; while even now it is insufficient for any extraordinary demand, and in times of drought, such as we had in 1887, when the people of Birmingham were very nearly put upon "short commons" in regard to water supply. It is calculated that the works will take ten years to complete, so that it is probable that before the completion of this undertaking the town and district will be in considerable difficulties with regard to water. In the endeavour to supply the deficiency the Corporation, in the first instance, sought for a local source; naturally doing so to avoid gigantic expenditure. At the present time the supply is derived chiefly from the River Bourne, and from deep wells sunk in the sandstone. The supply from the river is, of course, limited, and, in addition to that, the increase of population on the banks increases the difficulty of obtaining the water of that purity which is now demanded on sanitary considerations. As regards the supply from the sandstone formation, this is always somewhat doubtful. It is intermittent, and it occasionally fails suddenly, and there is reason to believe that the sponge of the sandstone formation in our district is very nearly exhausted. At all events, it is highly improbable that any considerable additional supply could be obtained without going very much deeper, in which case experience has shown that the water obtained is so hard as to be unfitted for domestic purposes. Even if the sandstone resources were availed of to the largest possible extent for the consumption of Birmingham and the district, even then the supply would only last this growing population for a few years, and at the end of that time we should still have to go to a distance for a supply, and all the previous expenditure on works would be thrown away. So it becomes necessary for the Corporation of Birmingham to seek a supply from a distance, and in doing this they are confined within a very limited area by certain physical conditions. Birmingham is, I believe, the highest of the large towns of the United Kingdom. The average height of the town is something between 400 and 500 feet above sea level, and consequently it is necessary that, for a supply of water to be used by gravitation in the town and district, it should be brought into the Birmingham reservoirs at a height of 600 feet above the sea level, and that an incline from the source of supply of 150 or 200 feet should be allowed—that is, that the source of supply should be 800 feet above sea level. With these considerations it was easy to hit on a spot which satisfied these conditions, while it would be difficult to find any other place equally suitable. The lands proposed to be taken are, in fact, the top of the watershed of the head waters of the Wye, and being at this level they can supply Birmingham, while the rest of the watershed would be quite incapable of supplying Birmingham, although it could supply many other large towns. The particular position selected was recommended twenty years ago by Mr. Rawlinson—afterwards Sir Robert Rawlinson—who reported on the subject to the Corporation of Birmingham at that time, and his selection has since been confirmed by Mr. Mansard and Mr. Grey, engineers to the city. The Bill provides for the supply of the water in a large conduit, which will ultimately contain five great pipes, though first of all two will be provided, others being added from time to time as more water is required. It is proposed to take the whole of the watershed at this elevation, which I believe covers an area of 70 square miles, in order to secure absolute control over the purity and quality of the water; but it is not intended to interfere more than is necessary for the purpose with the present use of the land, or the rights of any persons having any interest in the land. The Bill contemplates an ultimate expenditure of £6,000,000 sterling, but in the first instance the preliminary expenditure will be about £3,000,000, and it is hoped to provide this partly out of the profits of the present undertaking, and partly by an increase in the Water Rate which will be found necessary, although that increase will not be equal to the decrease which has taken place in the Water Rate since the Corporation obtained the property. Now, I should suppose that a Bill of this kind, involving the supply of a necessity of life to a great population, would be purely one for submission to a Committee, that the details may be carefully examined. But some opposition has been announced, and I find it expressed in a Motion for the rejection of the Bill standing in the name of the hon. Member for Merionethshire (Mr. T. Ellis). I do not know what are the motives for the hon. Member's opposition; but I can see perfectly that it is natural that when one district in the Kingdom proposes to appropriate an important source of water supply, other districts of the Kingdom, which either are now, or may be at any time, in want of water, should be anxious lest their possible requirements may be in any way improperly anticipated by a Corporation such as now puts this Bill before the House. That, I believe, was the case of the London County Council acting on behalf of the inhabitants of London; and I was very glad with my colleagues, and on behalf of the Corporation of Birmingham, to have an interview with the representatives of London, and to explain to them the circumstances under which this proposal is promoted. We were able to show to our London friends that, in consequence of the peculiar position of Birmingham, we were taking only the crown of the watershed—that is to say, the 70 square miles I have mentioned. But the whole of the watershed extends over 700 square miles, so that if we take that which we propose there will still be 630 square miles for the purposes of any other population which hereafter may find itself in want of water. I am happy to think we have satisfied our London friends, and they, I believe, assume a benevolent attitude towards the Bill on the present occasion. I do not know whether the hon Member for Merionethshire is actuated by a similar anxiety. I have seen in The Times of this morning a statement that hon. Members from Wales are promoting opposition, rather with the view of getting some Instruction sent to the Committee such as that of which notice has been given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). I would ask the hon. Member if this is true? Does he oppose the Second Reading of the Bill only with an ulterior purpose? If so, I would rather discuss with him these ulterior points than trouble the House with general remarks now.

MR. THOMAS ELLIS (Merionethshire)

As the right hon. Gentleman appeals to me, I may say that the Instruction does not cover all our objections to the Bill, though it goes partly in our direction.


Then I suppose the general principle is still involved. If it were only a question of details of an Instruction, I would endeavour to give the hon. Member assurances that I think would satisfy him. There has been a general principle stated in the Press, though I hope it is not adopted by the hon. Member, which finds expression in the phrase, "Welsh water for Wales." I must say in the whole course of my experience I never have observed such an extraordinary and curious development of and national feeling as is involved in this expression.


The right hon. Gentleman may relieve his mind on that point. That has only been advanced by some Conservative parson in some part of Montgomeryshire.


I am extremely glad that the hon. Gentleman does not support the view, for I should not be prepared to agree that this is Welsh water. It does not spring from Wales. It comes from Heaven and goes to the sea, and no more belongs to Welshmen than anybody else who stands in need of it. Well, then, this catchword, this extraordinary suggestion, may be put aside altogether. Then comes what is possibly a more serious objection—that Wales, like Birmingham, may be in need of water for itself. I have seen it stated that Glamorganshire has a rapidly, growing population already in need of water, and that the scheme of the Birmingham Corporation might possibly interfere with its right. If that is the objection, I have to say that personally I have been informed on good authority that any want that may be experienced in Glamorganshire or South Wales is not want of water, for they have too much, but want of adequate works for the storage. In the second place it may be said of Glamorganshire, as of London and other parts of the Kingdom, that even after we have taken everything that is required for the Midland district there still remains an enormous watershed entirely at their disposal which will provide for all possible wants for 50 years to come of 20,000,000 people. We appropriate the streams of the Elan and Claerwen tributaries of the Wye, but leave to Wales the Taff, the Usk, and all the lower tributaries of the Wye; and, as a fact, the source from whence we propose to draw our supply could not be availed of for South Wales without enormous expense and most difficult engineering works. I hope that after my explanation the opposition at this stage will not be pressed. I have already alluded to the Instruction proposed to be moved by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). He is very anxious, in the first place, to secure the access of tourists to this almost inaccessible district which no tourist visits at the present time. ("Oh, oh!") Yes, that is so. We know a good deal about the district. Our representatives have been there for many months past, and I believe such a thing as a tourist has never been seen. However, I do not lay stress on that—I merely state the fact that tourists do not go there, though doubtless when we have constructed our beautiful lakes visitors will go to see the works. Then my right hon. Friend is anxious for the commoners, whose rights are to be taken as well as manorial rights. I may say broadly that the Corporation of Birmingham do not desire to interfere in the slightest degree with any rights that can be shown to exist on the part of commoners or others, except so far as to secure the purity of the water supply. The only restrictions are such restrictions as may concern the purity of the water; and it is a matter of the very greatest importance, that if we spend £6,000,000 there should be no doubt about our being able to obtain a supply of water that will not be polluted from any source whatever. There are two reasons why rights of common may interfere. I do not say that they do interfere, but they may. One is in regard to the cutting of turbary. I am told that, under certain circumstances, the cutting of turbary is carried on in such a way that it may injure the purity of the water. Another way in which the rights of common may interfere is, I believe, in connection with sheep-washing, in which process arsenic is sometimes used. I do not say that the people of Birmingham are not a particularly healthy people; but what I do say is that, as a general rule, they do not like arsenic in their water. The population of the district concerned is a very small one; it is visited by few tourists, and by no stretch of imagination could it be supposed that mines are likely to be discovered in the neighbourhood. Again, there might be a great disadvantage in a general provision which gave everybody an unrestricted right upon those lands, as it is conceivable that it might be the source of much damage to the water supply. I will ask my hon. Friends to have faith in Local Government principles; that we are not dealing here with private interests; that they will recollect the sole object of the Corporation of Birmingham is to secure a water supply, and that that Corporation is so democratic as not to want to interfere with the pleasures or the rights of any individual.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. J. Chamberlain.)


It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman has stated, that this is a Private Bill, but it contains provisions which are calculated to make it a Public Bill, and a Bill of really national importance. I think it is right that the House should know upon what terms, and by the extinction of what rights, Birmingham proposes to take this land and to obtain powers from Parliament to do so. The right hon. Gentleman said that in Committee the details of the plan would be subjected to criticism, and that the objections would be subjected to the judgment of the Committee. It seems to me, from the principles underlying the demands of Birmingham, that those demands and all connected with them should be subjected to the judgment of this House. I do not so much refer to the magnitude of the project, or that the fact of Birmingham asking to spend £6,000,000 is a matter which deserves the attention of this House. I refer to the matter more in consequence of the sweeping powers asked for in the Bill, and also because of the character and variety of the public rights with which this. Bill proposes to interfere. The right hon. Gentleman made two or three references with regard to the matter of water supply for great centres. The question of population is one of enormous importance. Birmingham is not the only place that is looking to Wales for a water supply. London itself recognised the importance of it when Birmingham gave notice to ask for these powers, and Birmingham knows, and London knows, and South Wales knows, that there is only a very limited number of available watersheds for an enormously increasing population. The right hon. Gentleman named certain South Wales rivers, yet I venture to say that when the local conditions and the source of the water are examined, the House will find that the number of available water supplies is strictly limited, But in order to give some idea of its importance, not alone to London, but to South Wales, I need only refer to the figures of the last Census, showing that whereas Warwickshire increased within the ten years 9.2 per cent. Glamorganshire increased 34.4 within the same period, and Monmouthshire 19.5. What is the state of the water supply in Merthyr, Swansea, and in the rapidly rising town of Barry? Every dry summer the Rhondda is within measurable distance of a water famine. Take the water supply from those gathering grounds, the Elan and the Glaerwen, and then assuredly other districts of South Wales will soon ask for water from some of those rivers upon the same terms. How far, then, I ask the House, is the policy of tapping those hills to be carried? The right hon. Gentleman passed over, with his usual adroitness, the question of common land, and the public rights interfered with by this scheme. Take the comparatively small matter of 82 families, of 300 persons, who will be actually dispossessed and cleared off their ground.


I think the hon. Member is under a mistake. Their rights will be bought up. The only land the Corporation will take possession of is where it is necessary for the creation of a reservoir; and as regards the other land, the Corporation will be very glad to have tenants.


I am only going by the notice of the Corporation, in which they say that 82 families will be dispossessed, will be actually displaced from their land; and, in addition to that, I notice that they propose to take a church, two chapels, a school, and one or two burial grounds. We may fairly trust those who believe so much in Local Government that these displacements will take place with the greatest possible care and with every consideration; but does the House realise that among the powers to be taken are practically the acquiring of 65,000 acres of land for the purposes of the Bill, of which one-half, or about 32,000 acres, are common land? I venture to say that since the Act of 1876, regulating most carefully the enclosure of commons, no such power to enclose commons was ever asked for by anybody in this House. This Bill is therefore a gigantic Enclosure Bill, which Birmingham asks for. The right hon. Gentleman asks us to trust in Local Government and give up our rights for ever, which rights are to be distinctly and specifically taken away, and this I say is too much for the Corporation of Birmingham to ask. I find that 10,000 acres of common will be enclosed in one county, and that in another 20,000 acres will be enclosed. In one common there are 116 occupiers, and in the other 172, so that these powers concern 300 farmers with comparatively small farms. They have the right of common pasture upon these mountains, and with it they can live with comparative thrift and in comfort; but without it life would be impossible. I say that we should not trust in a vague way to the promoters of the Bill, but that the rights and privileges of these common pastures should be specifically protected. If hon. Members look at the Act of 1876 they will see that the rights and privileges of these commons are very carefully protected, and that the most strict reservation is made as to them. In regard to these rights Birmingham asks that we should appear in Committee and maintain them, and so safeguard the rights of the owners and occupiers. As a matter of fact, it is practically impossible for these small farmers to appear before a Committee of this House and obtain a fair hearing. With regard to the argument that the farmers are to have employment by the granting of this Bill, I do not see how it can be reasonably asked that we are to give up our rights to 32,000 acres for such a vague promise as that is, especially as we know that in many cases thousands and thousands of acres of common land have been taken away upon the same pretext. I do not see why the immemorial rights of the people should be given up upon such a promise. As to the right of access, it is a comedy to say that this district has no tourists; and I should say that there should be in the Bill a distinct and definite provision securing to the public the right of access to the districts from which the water was to be drawn. I could wish that regulations should be made either by the County Council or the Corporation with regard to keeping all the source of that supply pure and uncontaminated; but, over and above these regulations it seems they should continue the same right of access to these districts as hitherto. And then I hope the promoters of the Bill will accept in this Bill, if it passes the Second Reading, that Scenery Clause, which is Clause 13 of the Manchester Water (Thirlmere) Act of 1879. The powers in this Bill will include two or three of the best fishing rivers in South Wales, and it is proposed to take away the rights of fishing in these tributaries of the Wye, and one or two of the mountain tarns and lakes. The right hon. Gentleman says that there is no common right of fishing in these rivers and tributaries; but one thing is certain, and that is, that there is an immemorial custom on the subject. I venture to think that if any other town, such as Liverpool or Manchester, six years ago had asked for such privileges as this Bill, for extinguishing at a stroke all the rights and privileges of the people, the right hon. Gentleman would have been the very first in this House and out of it to lead the Opposition against the attack of public property.


My hon. Friend is mistaken I think, because I supported the Liverpool and Manchester Bill.


The Liverpool and Manchester Bill were comparatively small Bills, so far as the amount of land taken. The Liverpool scheme simply takes one valley and the hills around it, and the amount of commonland is small, and will not compare for a moment with the amount which Birmingham proposes to take by this Bill. And since the right hon. Gentleman has referred to Liverpool, I may say that there is great dissatisfaction on the part of the tenants there with the Liverpool Corporation. They find them hard landmasters; and there is considerable complaint that the rights of fishing have been monopolised by the Corporation of Liverpool. Over and above the ordinary regulations for the due preservation of public privileges, the inhabitants of the district of the Upper Wye should have continued to them this immemorial privilege of fishing. The only other point that I should like to call the attention of the House to in this Bill is that, although one reservoir would be quite enough, and possibly one-third or one-fourth of the land which it is proposed to enclose would be quite enough, for the purpose of supplying Birmingham, yet Birmingham by this Bill asks powers to supply every district within fifteen miles of the aqueduct. Birmingham seeks to become a sort of universal water provider over all these districts from Brecon to Birmingham; so that this Bill is not intended to meet the needs of Birmingham for water, but is intended to be a great commercial money-making undertaking.


It would be its duty to supply these districts. We do not seek for it; it is a duty imposed upon us, not by any desire of those who are interested in the promotion of the Bill, but the districts through which the water comes very naturally want to have a supply of water provided for them, and accordingly they have imposed upon us this condition: that they shall be supplied with water at a small rate of interest on the cost.


We have nothing to do with the amount of imposition which poor, oppressed Birmingham has been made to endure. The idea that Birmingham will be imposed upon by these districts is too much for this House. It is perfectly clear that Birmingham, by this Bill, seeks to supply water to all the other districts; and I am quite sure that once they have got this power Birmingham will not be imposed upon by Wolverhampton or any other town; but will be able to impose its own price upon any other town seeking water. In addition to the rights of common, of scenery, free fishing, and of turbary, I wish to point out, in the case of Radnorshire and Brecknockshire, that they urgently need to be re-afforested. The Woods and Forests Department has grossly neglected its duty in this matter. It has simply allowed the woods and forests in Radnorshire and Brecknockshire to be given away for an old song; it has allowed them to be cleared off, and has scarcely planted a single tree in the counties of Wales. There is no district where re-afforesting could be tried with more advantage than on this land which it is proposed to take away. True, it is not of much value at present, but it has a prospective value, and I say that these County Councils have a distinct interest in the ownership of the actual surface of the land over which they rule. The right hon. Gentleman in his opening speech referred to this ridiculous statement which has been considerably circulated by silly paragraphists in English newspapers with regard to Welsh water for Wales. It is quite true that you do not protect Welsh coal or Welsh iron for consumption. At the same time, when Welsh coal or Welsh iron is taken away from Wales it is taken at a fair valuation. We do not object to Birmingham getting its water supply in Wales. We can afford enough water to drown Birmingham; but, at any rate, if you intend to give the analogy of coal and iron, then you should make some compensation for these valuable public and immemorial rights which you are taking away. I hope the promoters of the Bill, if it be read a second time, will not only accept the Instruction which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has moved, but will also enlarge that Instruction by including the immemorial privilege of free fishing in these waters, and, further, that they will make some substantial compensation to the two County Councils most especially concerned—namely, those of Brecknockshire and Radnorshire. I venture to make these remarks, not in any spirit of opposition to Birmingham getting a pure supply of water from the Welsh hills, but in the hope that the House will see that the rights and privileges of the commoners and the public rights shall be duly safeguarded and respected. I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given notice.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Thomas Ellis.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

(5.5.) SIR JOSEPH BAILEY (Hereford)

It is the duty of a prudent Legislature to look forward. No doubt Birmingham is doing what is right in looking about for a proper and adequate water supply. I do not wash to say that Wales should have a monopoly of the Welsh water; but I am here to say that the waters of the Wye are, in the first place, to be made applicable for the population in the valley of the Wye. The Wye flows through the centre of the City of Hereford, which I have the honour to represent. Hereford stands on both banks of the river, and the City of Hereford has acted very nobly by the River Wye. It has entered into a costly undertaking and provided the most elaborate system of drainage works in order that it may pass the River Wye with the greatest possible purity to the in habitants below. The Wye has no connection at all with Glamorganshire. There is this great difference between Hereford and Birmingham: that Birmingham is a rich place, and, unfortunately, Hereford is a poor place. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the water in Wales is not Welsh water, but the water Heaven sent. Well, I say that Heaven sent the water of the Wye to Hereford, and not to Birmingham. The Wye is not an ideal source for a water supply, because Rhayader, Newbridge, Builth, and Hay discharge their sewage into it. But the river is scoured by the streams that flow into it, and especially by the strong winter floods; and I never heard any complaints at Hereford that any epidemic disease had arisen from drinking the water. But it may be very different when Birmingham has taken the purest water of the Wye, and taken a large portion of the two rivers which are the great cause of the winter floods and supply the scouring, which makes it at present so useful to Hereford. Sheep washing is not to be permitted, and mining operations are to be brought to an end. It is proposed that of a tract of 70 square miles Birmingham shall become the owner. This demand embodied in this Bill is larger far than any that has ever been advanced in the history of the world. I do not want to dwell on the agricultural aspect of the question, but I may say that sheep farmers are looking with the greatest anxiety upon this Bill. They graze their sheep on the mountains, and, if these mountains are denuded of sheep, great distress will certainly be occasioned. There is another point. At the present time, when a man leaves his farm, it is the custom for the incoming tenant to buy all the sheep; and those tenants who hold under Welsh landlords, and who have an interest in maintaining this custom, are naturally alarmed at the prospective establishment of a condition of things which will make the Municipality of Birmingham the proprietors of this part of the country and the landlord of those men. Now, with regard to Hereford, the citizens there find that their water supply is, in the summer, hardly sufficient to meet their own wants, and, although the Bill proposes to give them 22,500 gallons of compensation water per day, I think that hardly meets the case. There is no doubt that great interference with the mineral industries might take place. I do not dwell upon the effect of this scheme upon the works on the south side of the Claerwen, because those works are my own property. But from this mineral estate I would like to mention that the water, after being used, flows, in a more or less impure condition, into the Claerwen. It is proposed by Birmingham to make no provision for these mineral rights, and to turn this water, which I have said is more or less foul, into a pipe, and conduct it into either the River Claerwen or the compensation reservoir. It will be observed that while they take the greatest possible care to secure the purity of the water they are going to supply to their own citizens, the Corporation of Birmingham actually propose to run into the water, which forms the domestic supply of Hereford, the water coming from this mine. This inflow affects not only Hereford, but all places within the valley of the Wye, which is a South of Hereford fishing river. There are fisheries which supply a considerable amount of salmon to the London market. By the sport of fishing, and by the natural beauty of the spot, many people are every year attracted to the Wye, which has led to a large amount of building on both sides of the river, and consequently added considerably to the rateable value of the neighbourhood. The Corporation of Birmingham propose to place across the River Wye a dam 120 feet high, which will prevent salmon getting to the spawning ground. I should like to point out to the House the very great danger of these enormous weirs. If they were to break down they would, in all probability, cause great injury in three counties—Brecon, Hereford, and Monmouth—and there is nothing to throw the responsibility of that danger upon the shoulders of the Municipality of Birmingham. I hope the House will consider the enormous gravity of this question, which affects every town and every interest in the valley of the River Wye. Among the opponents of this Bill were the London County Council and the Corporation of the City. What can they have to do with the matter, and what is their object? It is only this—that they are looking forward to getting their water in the future from this very neighbourhood in Wales. A clause is to be inserted into the Bill providing that no compensation is to be given to persons in the valley of the Wye, to whom by nature this water belongs, that shall be injurious to the interests of London; and a second clause, giving the County of London power to cross the aqueducts of Birmingham at any point they think fit. No doubt Birmingham is well advised in getting its water from the best and cheapest source; but if the aqueducts of Birmingham touch those of London at any point, it is quite clear that for their supply they are both going to the same neighbourhood. In the circumstances, I think that those who disapprove of this Bill are well within their rights in coming to this House and asking for protection. This Bill is opposed by five counties—Radnor, Brecknock, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Montgomery- shire. It is opposed by the Corporation of Hereford, and by every town and by every interest on the Wye. We do not object to Birmingham going for water wherever they like. What we complain of is that this Bill has been promoted solely in the interests of Birmingham, and to the exclusion of the interests of our neighbourhood. Birmingham ought, in the first place, to have consulted every person and every interest locally affected before bringing this Bill to a Second Reading. And the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham ought to have been able to say to this House, "We have consulted every interest which will be affected, and have come to ask for this water with the goodwill and the approval of all."

(3.21.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

Sir, I may have on another occasion to move the Instruction of which I have given notice, and I now rise briefly to explain my position in relation to this Bill. In the first place, I have no intention of opposing the Second Reading, for I have no hostility to the proposal, and I think my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham has made out a good case for the reference of this Bill to a Select Committee. But, Sir, I wish to insure that when the Bill goes before that Committee there should be given to all those interests really affected ample power and opportunity of being heard. The Bill as it stands is one of enormous importance, and affects an enormous number of small farmers in the district. I understand there are no fewer than 400 farmers who have rights of common and rights of cutting turf over the 32,000 acres of land which this Bill proposes to take, and I am told that these rights are essential to the very existence of these small farmers. At a time when legislation is pending, having for its object the creation of small holdings, it would be unwise on the part of the House to take a course which would lead to the virtual extinction of 400 farmers. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham said he had no intention of taking away any rights, and that all that was intended was to prevent those common rights being used in such a way as to vitiate the water. But my right hon. Friend proposes to expropriate those common rights and the rights of the lords of the manor, and he asks us to have confidence in Birmingham and in the general goodness of local government. I have the utmost confidence in local government, but I have not the same confidence in Local Corporations when I come to deal with them from an external point of view. Corporations, as we all know, have neither got souls to be saved nor bodies to be kicked, and I do not think it would be an altogether ideal position for the Corporation of Birmingham to occupy to be landlord to something like 400 small tenants in Wales. That is a relation that ought not to be established without very serious consideration; but, Sir, I do not ask the House to decide upon that question now. I only want to secure that these small farmers shall have ample opportunity of being heard before the Committee. There is great doubt whether they have any locus standi. They are not, strictly at law, commoners. They are merely tenants of the landlords, who themselves are commoners. They are tenants from year to year, who are not entitled to compensation in respect of common rights and what I desire to secure is that they will be heard, and that their rights will be respected. I desire that the Committee should have power to summon these people before them and to pay their expenses. I understand from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham that he is prepared to concede my Instruction if the Welsh Members will not vote against the Bill. I would recommend that course to my hon. Friends from Wales, who, I venture to think, will be wise in withdrawing their opposition upon this understanding.

(3.28.) SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)

I wish to ask the indulgence of the House in order that I may make a few remarks from a point of view entirely different from those who have already spoken. And first of all, Sir, I wish to acknowledge, on behalf of the London County Council and the Members representing the Metropolitan district and the Home counties, our obligation to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham for his courtesy in postponing for a few days the Second Reading of this Bill in order that we might have time to consult the Birmingham Members with reference to the Bill. We regret that it has been introduced at the present moment. The supply of water to the community is a national question; the areas of supply are becoming so enlarged that it is of the utmost importance, from a national point of view, that the water supply should be made available in the most economical manner for all the great and growing cities of the country. We have already made some mistakes with reference to water supplies. In the case of Liverpool, for instance, it would have been very much better if Liverpool had sought her supply of water rather from the Westmoreland and Cumberland lakes, and have let the Welsh area supply the centre and west of England. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham says that this scheme takes only 70 square miles, and that there will remain 670 not appropriated. But those 670 square miles are not of such a good quality as the 70 square miles sought for in this Bill, and from that point of view there can be no comparison of the two areas. Last year a very able Committee sat upon the question of water supply, and made an unanimous Report to the House, in one paragraph of which they expressed this opinion and advice— In view of the possibility of its being ultimately established that the present sources of supply cannot be extended, and that additional sources are required, and in view also of the fact that the possible fresh areas of supply are limited, and are already being drained for other large communities, your Committee think that Parliament may well consider, before granting any powers for further encroachment upon those areas, how far provision ought fairly to be made for the possible requirements alike of the Metropolis and of the other large populations upon the lines of supply. That was a very important recommendation, and, I venture to say, a very wise recommendation. In consequence of that recommendation partly, and partly also in consequence of the recommendation of the London County Council, Her Majesty's Government have found themselves bound to appoint a Royal Com- mission to inquire into this subject. In these circumstances, we certainly do regret that this Bill has not been delayed until that Royal Commission has had an opportunity of inquiring into the subject and reporting. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has said that this matter is so urgent for Birmingham that it is impossible to wait. We have some doubts upon this subject even now, and I observe in the report of the speech of the Chairman of the Birmingham Water Committee (Sir T. Martineau) he did not express himself so strongly on that point. He referred to the waters of the Bourne, from which Birmingham now derives its supply, and said he could not conscientiously say this supply would be sufficient to last for a longer period than 20 years. Well, 20 years is a very considerable time. If it will take 20 years for this supply to be utilised, that would give ample opportunity for inquiry on the part of Her Majesty's Government. May I ask, why should there be this great haste? When the London County Council representatives had a meeting with the representatives of Birmingham, we told them that we were informed that they were hurrying forward in order to forestall London. We were assured that this was not the case. Of course we accepted that assurance, but an hour or two ago I received the official report of a speech of the Chairman of the Birmingham Water Committee, and I was greatly surprised to find the following passage. His words are these— There is a most important reason for not dallying with this matter, and that is what is being done by London. No doubt London is in the initiatory stage; no doubt a great deal will have to be done before any Bill can be got into shape for a supply from a distance, or even a nearer source, for London. In some shape or another it will have to be settled which of the Governing Bodies of London, in case the companies are bought out or superseded, is to have the control of the water supply. Therefore, we have a little time before they begin to be our rivals, but I think we must bear this in mind: our rivals they will be sooner or later, and we have just now an opportunity of running before them, and getting hold, if we can, of these valuable rivers for the supply of Birmingham. It is sometimes said it is very hard, if Birmingham wishes for this supply, that anyone should object because London has not made up its mind. But the fact is, London is not allowed to make up its mind. There is no public body which is allowed to speak for London. I tried last Session and this Session to obtain from this House those powers for London which every other great city possesses, but those powers were not allowed. The fact is, that at the present moment London has its hands tied behind its back, and whilst we are unable to do anything towards obtaining a sufficient water supply for London, other cities come forward one after another and are appropriating the most useful districts. We do not wish to interfere with this Bill if it is really necessary for the interests of Birmingham. We sympathise with the wishes of Birmingham in this matter, we acknowledge the courtesy we have received from them, and they have met us on some matters connected with this Bill. Therefore, in these circumstances, we do not feel we should be justified in opposing the Second Reading of the Bill. We submit that the passage I have read to you is a strong reason why this House should no longer keep from the people of London power to protect themselves and get a sufficient water supply. But we do not feel it would be right for us to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. What we do ask is that the Committee, which will, no doubt, inquire carefully into the claims of the Bill, should not pass the Bill, unless they are satisfied that the claims of Birmingham are as urgent as we are assured they are, and that they cannot be supplied from a district nearer and more appropriate than that now proposed. That is the position we take up. If it is really a fact that this supply is urgently necessary, we, on the part of London, will not stand in the way of Birmingham in this matter. But we hope, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee of last year, further areas will not be appropriated unless it is felt that the needs are urgent and that there is no nearer source of supply.

(3.40.) MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Newington, W.)

It has been said in the course of this Debate that London is quite satisfied with the arrangement which is being come to; but it appears from the speech of the hon. Baronet who has just sat down that London is nothing of the sort—that we are very far from being satisfied with the arrangement, because London has not the power to deal with her water supply which is given to other communities, and that, consequently, Birmingham is stealing a march on London. It is said that Birmingham has a supply which will not be utilized for the next 20 years; and, as a matter of fact, Birmingham has the advantage of London in that respect. What does Birmingham propose to do? Birmingham proposes to take the head waters of the Wye, and of the two rivers the Claerwen and Elan, which supply water to the Wye. At a stretch including the best point where the waters are the purest, they propose to take what I may call the cream of the water for themselves. Then how do they leave-London? They leave London to take its supply from the lower and more polluted area, whilst the people of Birmingham take theirs from the highest position, because their opening is situated higher up than is that for London. What will be the result? In the opinion of those best able to judge, it would be best for London to go to the nearest and purest water; but, if Birmingham is before London, London will have to make much more expensive works and take water from a lower area, because Birmingham has got it from a higher area, and we shall have greater expense, because water from a lower level will be brought to London at a greater cost than water from the higher level of the actual reach. The needs of Birmingham are 17,000,000 gallons a day. What does London require? The 600,000 inhabitants of Birmingham require 17,000,000 gallons per day, but the 6,000,000 inhabitants of London, in the areas served by the Water Companies, require 200,000,000 gallons per day, and that will probably increase to 250,000,000 or 300,000,000 gallons per day before 20 years have elapsed. The claims of London are far ahead of the claims of Birmingham. What can be the reason in the mind of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham for his attitude in this matter? It is that, under the influence of that beneficent measure we are going to pass, the Small Holdings Act, Birmingham will be relieved from a great portion of the surplus population, and, therefore, there will not be such a great con sumption of water. The main facts of the case are that, because the London County Council has not such powers regarding water supply as such a powerful body ought to possess, therefore it is to allow Birmingham to steal a march. That is a position of affairs we ought to oppose.


What I said was that we were told London had not made up its mind, but the fact is London has not made up its mind because the London County Council have no power in the matter.


There are 60 Members in this House representing London, and I hope they will show that London has made up its mind by fighting against this Bill to the last.

(3.45.) MR. BIDDULPH (Herefordshire, Ross)

As representing a constituency close to the River Wye, I may say at the present moment there is not one drop of its water to spare. The Wye is a rapidly-flowing river, and it is of the utmost importance that the rights of the inhabitants through whose district it flows should be preserved. I am quite certain if this Bill is passed, unless some stringent protective measures are used, a great amount of water will be alienated, and irreparable injury will be done to the district through which the Wye passes.

MR. WALSH (Radnorshire)

I should like to have some assurance from those who represent the promoters of this Bill that some compensation will be given for any damage done, and for the extra force of police required to protect the strangers attracted to the locality, and which with the extra cost for the maintenance of roads will be a heavy burden on the locality.

(3.50.) SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)

I think the feeling of this House is that it would be a strong measure to reject this Bill with all its great defects. At the same time there seems to be a wish to preserve the enjoyment of the rights that the public have long been in possession of. Speaking from some interest in the locality, I give notice of this new Instruction, which I will move on Thursday or Friday next— That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom this Bill is referred that provisions be inserted in the Bill to preserve the substantial use and enjoyment to the public of the waters of the Wye and the other waters affected by the Bill to the same extent, and in like manner, as if this Bill were not passed; or a full equivalent for such use or enjoyment.

(3.50.) MR. DIXON-HARTLAND (Middlesex, Uxbridge)

There has been some consultation on this matter between Birmingham and London, and the Second Reading was put off for the consideration of certain concessions. Those were made on the clear understanding that the Bill should not be opposed on the Second Reading, but should be allowed to go to a Committee. I cannot help thinking that, after these two Committees have met and agreed to a common course, it would be a breach of faith if the Bill were not allowed to be dealt with at the present time.

(3.52.) SIR HUSSEY VIVIAN (Swansea, District)

It appears to me that the Members for Birmingham and London regard Wales as a carcase which is to be divided between them according to their own wants and wishes. I altogether protest against any such view of the case. I have no objection whatever to such water as is not wanted in Wales being used in Birmingham or London, or anywhere else; but I say distinctly that not only the rights of Wales at the present time, but the wants of Wales hereafter and for all time, should be safeguarded in any Bill which this House passes for taking water away from Wales. There is no part of the United Kingdom which is increasing so rapidly in population as that part of Wales which is affected by the Birmingham and London schemes, and unless we take care to safeguard the rights of those whom we represent, there is no saying what may be our position hereafter. Why, Sir, the town I represent suffered from a water famine in 1887, and we are now going to a district, not very far from the one referred to in the Bill, to get our water supply. The same thing will probably occur in other places. In 1801 the population of Glamorganshire was 71,535; in 1891 it was 687,147, or nearly ten times as great. The population of Cardiff in 1801 was 1,870, and now it is 128,849—that is, 70 times as great as in 1801. Is, then, our water to be taken away and portioned out between Birmingham and London? Certainly not. If the Bill goes to a Committee I hope an Instruction will be passed to the effect that the Committee shall reserve to Wales such water as she may require not only now, but for all future time. Birmingham has not exhausted its own resources; it has abundant resources close to itself. Thirty-live years ago I established a considerable mill at Birmingham, and sank a deep well, obtaining an abundant supply of pure water which has never failed. There is an abundant water supply under and around Birmingham, and if they would only sink artesian wells they could get as much water as they want without coming to "Wales for it. Therefore, to take the water from us is unjustifiable. The question of water is a national one, and before seeking water from a distance the authorities should satisfy themselves that there is no water in their own immediate neighbourhood. I believe there is abundant water in the chalk strata round Loudon for all time, and there is no necessity to undertake these expensive works to supply either Birmingham or London. If this Bill does go to Committee, I hope power will be reserved in it which shall insure to the inhabitants of Wales such water as they may require for all time.


The hon. Baronet who has just spoken is a very old Member of the House, and has attended on many Committees, but he appears to forget that the very questions he has raised now are such as could be submitted to and examined by a Committee. I have listened to the Debate with attention, and I venture to say I have hardly heard a single point raised which it is not the common duty of a Committee to attend to. Not only is it the duty of the Committee to look to such questions, but by the passing of the Local Government Act, County Councils were created, and those Councils representing the counties affected by the Bill are the bodies best qualified to bring these matters before a Committee and to defend their rights. These County Councils have a right to appear before the Committee and to argue out the question of the water proposed to be taken. The rights of London and of every county interested in the measure will be examined and preserved by the Committee. There seems to be a sort of jealousy between the London County Council and the Birmingham Corporation, and the attitude of the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. Ellis) with regard to the latter is very extraordinary—he seemed to be jealous of Birmingham having power to get a pure water supply. I have sometimes seen a cat approaching a dog, with back and tail arched, spitting—


I do not like to disturb the right hon. Gentleman, but I would like to ask him to point to any sentence or word in which I showed any jealousy of Birmingham having the power to secure a proper water supply, so long as they obtain it in full consideration for the localities and people interested. In the beginning and end of my speech I expressed my wish that Birmingham, like every other community, should have the best possible water supply, and I think, in this matter, I am supported by the whole sense of the House.


I am sorry I misrepresented the hon. Gentleman, but there was an impression on my mind that there was a jealousy towards Birmingham. As I have said before, every question raised here can be examined by the Committee. There is only one question, and that ought to be agreed upon between the promoters of the Bill and its opponents—that is the question of the existing rights of riparian and agricultural owners. It will be impossible for the Committee to create rights that are not already existent. If all Birmingham wants is to get a pure water supply, there will be no difficulty in drawing a clause which will protect the rights now existing so long as they do not interfere with the right of vesting the land. I think all these matters can be arranged if we approach each other in a business-like spirit before the Committee.

(4.3.) MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)

It is well that the London Members should understand where they are. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that it is impossible to defend rights which do not exist. Is that to be interpreted to mean that the London County Council will have no locus standi before a Committee on this question?


I said it would be impossible to create rights which do 'not exist. There is no doubt of the right of the London County Council to go before the Committee if it desire to do so.


Then I understand that the intention in this Bill is definitely to exclude London from a certain area in Wales which has the purest water, the water which would be most valuable to London if we have to draw our supply from there. I was not a member of the committee which met the gentlemen from Birmingham, but I was a member of the conference which appointed that committee, and I most distinctly repudiate the idea of the London Members attending that conference being bound to any particular course with regard to this Bill. I hoped that the right hon. Member for Bury (Sir H. James) would have moved some Instruction which would prove some possible protection to the rights of London. There is nothing of the sort before the House, and as I understand the whole meaning of this Bill is to definitely exclude London from this valuable area of pure water, I, for one, as a London Member looking to the future needs and growth of London, will not be a party to the passing through this House of such a measure.

(4.6.) MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

Those of us who attended the Conference which has been referred to were under the impression that the necessity for Birmingham to get water was extreme, but since entering the House we have seen a pamphlet, recently published in Birmingham, containing the speech of Alderman Sir T. Martineau, who is connected with the waterworks of that city. I have looked through that pamphlet as well as time would allow, and I am bound to say that I do not find that the arguments advanced in it tally with those which I understand were advanced on behalf of Birmingham at the Conference. The pamphlet is the one which has been referred to by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock); it is the speech by Alderman Sir T. Martineau, Member of the Water Committee, on the presentation of the Report of that Committee to the Corporation. What I understood was that the urgency for Birmingham was in no way influenced by the action of the London County Council, and the same idea was entertained by the Members of the Water Committee of that Council, which passed a Resolution to this effect on the 1st March— The Council trusts that Parliament will not pass the Birmingham Corporation Water Bill before the water consumers of the Metropolitan area have had an opportunity of putting their whole case before the Royal Commission, except on the clearest possible evidence that the urgency of the matter in the case of Birmingham is so great that it must be pushed forward immediately without regard to the requirements of the population of the Metropolis; the Council hopes that the Bill will be referred to a Select Committee, and that an Instruction will be given to the Committee in this sense. That Resolution was so cautiously worded because we understood that the needs of Birmingham were so exceedingly pressing, and knowing the immense difficulties of towns in getting a water supply and the urgency of the case we felt that it would be undesirable for us to stand in any dog-in-the-manger way between Birmingham and its water supply so long as their urgency was not the result of our action and necessity. But I find in this pamphlet very feeble arguments in support of the urgency of the case. I see 20 years mentioned as the period for which a certain scheme will provide the necessary water for Birmingham. And then it is added that there is another reason, and a most imperative one, for not dallying with the matter, but deciding at once if they were to go to Wales for water. That is the position of London. And the writer goes on to state that London is becoming awake to the necessity of its water supply, and that there is no water authority in London. London, it is urged, is aiming at a water supply, and, though in the initiatory stage, will shortly have a water authority—probably the. County Council—and then it will become the rival of Birmingham. Therefore, says Sir Thomas Martineau, we have a little time before they begin to be our rivals. We must bear in mind that our rivals they will be sooner or later, and just now we have an opportunity of going before them and getting hold of these valuable rivers for the supply of Birmingham, the inhabitants of which have just as good a claim to them as have the inhabitants of London. I admit that Birmingham has as good a claim as London; but, on the other hand, I urge that London has as good a claim as Birmingham. So far as I can gather, the urgency of Birmingham is based to a large extent on the fact that London is now moving in the matter, and their urgency is a desire to get there before London and keep London out. I think, under these circumstances, that the London Members have a right to ask this House to put them on an equality with Birmingham, and to say that the two matters shall go pari passu. London's case for water is very urgent, and all we say is that this urgency on the part of Birmingham looks like an endeavour to get in before London, as stated in the pamphlet from which I have just read. It is not urgency caused by need of water; it merely means that Birmingham is not willing to co-operate with London in this matter. We are prepared to co-operate with Birmingham, and I say it is not right or proper that Birmingham, to use the words of the pamphlet, should have the right of running in before us. I contend that the case of urgency in the proper use of the word has not been made out, and I hope that the House will not pass this Bill.

(4.15.) MR. KENRICK (Birmingham, N.)

Since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham spoke a number of Members have entered the House, and not having heard his arguments are basing their judgment on imperfect information. I am surprised that the right hon. Member for London University should have laid such stress on one phrase used by Sir Thomas Martineau in the course of a long speech delivered to the City Council of Birmingham. Some allowance must be made for a rhetorical flourish intended possibly to relieve the monotony of a long business speech.


It is the whole pamphlet.


I quite admit that Birmingham and London are competitors, but Birmingham takes its water supply from a higher area than London, and can take its supply without in any way injuring London, whereas if London were first on the ground it would take the whole of the supply, because of the difference in the level of the City of London. Therefore it was most important for Birmingham to get its supply before London. With regard to the urgency of the matter, it is well known that in the cases of Liverpool and Manchester the provision of the supply has taken ten years. That was so in the case of Liverpool, and probably will be so in the case of Manchester, and it is absolutely necessary that the Corporation of Birmingham should look beforehand in a matter of this kind. References have been made to the possibilities of the water supply during the next 20 years, but it has been pointed out over and over again that one portion of the supply is impure, inasmuch as it passes through an agricultural district. Then the hon. Member for Swansea made suggestions about sinking wells We have sunk five wells, and three of them are practically failures, and I believe the general experience on this particular method of water finding is that it is precarious and uncertain. The experience of the people of Liverpool, who have tried this system, is that they have had to go so deep and have obtained water of such hardness that for domestic and manufacturing purposes it was practically useless. The London Members have misunderstood our case. The hon. Member for Shoreditch, after a hasty perusal of this pamphlet, asks the House to throw out this Bill, but the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means says that all these questions of detail which have been raised can be discussed in Committee in a way in which they cannot be discussed before this House; and I hope, looking at the importance of the matter to a large population who have practically exceeded their source of water supply, that the House will accept this Bill.

(4.22.) MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)

I submit that this question cannot be adequately discussed in Committee. It is quite true that the London County Council has a locus standi before any Committee, but the Committee, on considering this Bill, would not inquire into the needs of London, or the difficulties of London, but would consider the matter wholly and solely from the Birmingham point of view. If London could urge from that standpoint any valid argument against the Bill passing it would be considered, but otherwise it would not. It is for this House, in dealing with this matter, to take into consideration the recommendation which was made last year, that there should be an inquiry into the water supply of these great towns. The hon. Member (Mr. Kenrick) talks of the London Members having departed from the agreement which was arrived at at last year's Conference. I was a member of the Conference, and I can only say that we approached the Members for Birmingham in all good faith, and I do not think we were fairly treated by them. At that Conference we distinctly asked, "Is it a case of rivalry with London? Is it that you wish to steal a march on London that this Bill is brought forward?" We were told it was not a case of anything of the kind; it arose, we were told, purely out of the urgent needs of Birmingham, and now we have before us the speech of Sir Thomas Martineau. I am bound to say that when it was urged that London should wait and Birmingham should wait for the Report of the Royal Commission, the Members for Birmingham pointed out that it was a case of most urgent importance to the inhabitants of their town. I do not see that argument advanced in the speech which is now before us. The Government has just appointed a Commission, and I think that Birmingham, like London, should wait for the Report of that Commission. We are perfectly satisfied with that. We do not want to steal a march on Birmingham. We are prepared to take the good with the bad with them. We are prepared to receive equal treatment with Birmingham, but our urgency is as great as theirs, and they will be showing greater respect to this House by waiting for the Report of the Royal Commission than by pushing on this measure, and I submit that that matter should be postponed until that inquiry has been completed.


Since I addressed the House in moving this Bill a totally new appearance has been placed upon the Debate. At the time I moved the Bill I thought that not only would it receive no opposition from the Members for London, but that it would receive their cordial support. It is clear that our interests are the same, and all great populations desirous of acquiring for themselves a satisfactory and sufficient supply of water must stand equal in any proposal of this kind. But my right hon. Friend has made a speech which has given rise to a great deal of misrepresentation. He said with perfect accuracy that when he was at the Conference of the Members for Birmingham and the Members for London, the Members for London represented to us that they would greatly prefer that this matter should stand over until they were prepared to give it their consideration, and that they would only withdraw their opposition if they were satisfied that the case of Birmingham was urgent. They also asked us whether we proceeded in this matter in any spirit of rivalry to London. Those two points are absolutely separate and distinct. If there were no London in existence our urgency would be just the same. The case of Birmingham is the case as I stated it in opening this question. The present average demand for water in Birmingham is 17,000,000 gallons; the maximum supply is only 20,000,000. In a few years the average demand will be over the maximum supply and already the maximum demand is above the maximum supply. Surely that is a sufficient case of urgency. From some source or other Birmingham must get water, or she will be starving. With respect to the allegation of rivalry with London, I may say that I have not seen the extracts which have been read, and I heard no suggestion of anything of the kind at the Conference to which reference has been made. We propose to take a water area which is 800 ft. above the level of the sea in order to supply Birmingham, which is 600 ft. But London, which is on a lower level, can take all its water from lower levels, and accordingly, if Birmingham were to take all this land, there would still be left ten times as much land of a lower level, with water just as good, with all the facilities just the same, and having this additional advantage: that it can be obtained more cheaply than London could obtain it from the piece of land which Birmingham proposes to take. If hon. Members had seen the map they would see that this land is not needed for London. The lands of Tor and Usk and the tributary streams are the lands to which London would go in the first place, and it would be only after exhausting the water of that district—which is sufficient for millions of persons—it is only then that it would need to go to a lower level. I think it will be clear to the House that there will be no intentional disturbance. But independent of all this, Birmingham must have more water; and this piece of land, which is not by any means of use to London, would be of great use to us.

(4.35.) MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

As one of those who attended the Conference, I wish to say a few words upon the subject. I must confess that we went into that Conference—five-sixths of us—hostile to this Bill. We went into the Conference to ask two questions—first, was the question of the supply of water to Birmingham an urgent one, quite irrespective of the London water supply; and, secondly, would it interfere with London? and from what we heard we did not feel inclined to oppose the Bill. We asked the question specifically with regard to urgency, quite irrespective of London. I should not oppose the Bill, because I believe this Birmingham supply will not really interfere with the London supply; but, at the same time, it seems to me that the urgency cannot be such that one year would make any great difference to Birmingham, if we did not meet their views. I regret that there should be a misunderstanding in regard to this question of urgency, though I am sure no hon. Member will think it a wilful misunderstanding. The feeling is that Birmingham has come to ask for a water supply, not alone for her own particular needs, but also because she is afraid that London would be beforehand with her. I, for one, should not support the Bill, but, under the circumstances, I would not oppose it.

(4.38.) MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham addresses himself entirely and exclusively to the views which the London Members put forward. I would desire, in a very few words, before the House comes to a decision, to direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the demands which have been made by the Welsh Members, and very reasonable demands I think they are, and yet as to which we have not had any answer. I think it is clear now to the Chairman of Committees, whose back is "arched" in this matter, that it is London that is "arching its back" and "spitting at the mouth" against Birmingham. It is not for me to express any opinion as to the expediency or good taste of the Chairman of Committees—who has in that capacity to preside over this Assembly—describing a colleague in this House as "a cat approaching a dog, arched in the back, and spitting at the mouth." But we have a right to repel the accusation couched in such refined language. The Welsh Members have not attacked Birmingham, and the "attack" has only been conjured up in the imagination of the right hon. Gentleman by his strong desire to champion the Member for West Birmingham, who, without the ready aid of the Chairman of Committees, is well able to take care of himself. We do not object to London or Birmingham taking the water; but what we do say in regard to Birmingham is, that Birmingham proposes to become a great landlord, and is going to deprive a large number of people of important rights, which I need not detail. The point to which we should like some answer is a very clear and definite one. If all they want is to take the water, they can acquire it by other means than by becoming landlords. It has been pointed out that this House has been very careful in regard to the rights of common land. I cannot for the life of me see why this House, by a Private Bill, should practically repeal the Act of 1876. In that Act there is to be a local inquiry, and public rights are guarded in the most precise way. There are turbary rights and right of access to particular views and public paths, and many other matters provided for. Do you wish to repeal the provisions of that Act? I think we ought to have some assurance by the promoters of the Bill before the House is asked to assent to the Second Reading; we ought to have some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman to the effect that he is prepared to incorporate the provisions of the Act of 1876 in this Bill, so far as it deals with commons. Birmingham is going to inclose 30,000 acres of common. There have been a great many inclosures since the Act of 1876 was passed; but the House should know, if the Bill is passed, that this will be a greater inclosure of common than all the others put together. In regard to the Instruction of the right hon. Member for Bradford, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham held out a hope that if the House would accept the Second Reading he would be prepared to accept the Instruction. But that Instruction is either right or wrong, and the right hon. Gentleman should tell us, whether the Second Reading is agreed to or not, that he will accept the Instruction. There is another Instruction by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury of which he said nothing, and whispers are going through this part of the House that the right hon. Gentleman will not touch that at all. I ask what are the intentions of the promoters—first, are they prepared to accept the provisions of the Inclosure Act of 1876, and, next, will they be prepared to accept the Instructions on the Paper in the name of the right hon. Member for Bradford and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury? If not, I hope the House will reject the Second Reading, and so give London the opportunity of having a little longer to make up its mind.

(4.50.) MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

I must say that I disapprove of the feeling of rivalry between London and Birmingham in this matter. Surely Wales is big enough to provide for both places! Much has also been said about the large area proposed to be taken; something like 70 square miles. It may appear startling at first sight; but, after all, it is only about eight miles by eight, and the water supply of a great community such as Birmingham needs the resources of such an area as is referred to in the proposals. A great deal has been said about enclosure and about interference with public rights, but it must be recollected that you cannot take at large area for water without touching some rights, and I do not think that this is a difficulty that could not be easily overcome. London will reserve its own rights, and I am sure that when the time comes for dealing effectively with its water supply—and we all know that a great scheme for the supply of London is not far distant—it will be possible, at the same time, to find ample space and ample resources in the same district without affecting the claims of Birmingham. As to the Conference spoken of in the course of the Debate, I regret it was not held in a more practical manner. But, at the same time, I do not think the Bill will affect the interests of London, and I do not object to its going to a Second Reading.

(4.55.) MR. JAMES ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

I wish to say that I was not at the Conference referred to, nor do I think, had I been present, I should have arrived at the same conclusion as some of my hon Friends. I have listened to the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and I think if ever there was a case made out for delay on this question it was made out by the right hon. Gentleman. He tried to demonstrate that this piece of land was valueless to London, and that if they wanted land they could get very much better elsewhere without the asking. The Chairman of the Committee that has charge of the Birmingham Bill for the new water supply, and the Gentleman who has made himself best acquainted with the demands of Birmingham, and who has mastered the whole case, in his speech against the London Bill, says, "That is another reason, and a most imperative one." He considers it to be most imperative that the rivalry with regard to the London Bill should be considered. We are not responsible for it. The Chairman of the Committee makes it an imperative point, with regard to this case, that they should run and get in before London. We have not put in any petty Motion that we should desire to run and get in before Birmingham; but a Royal Commission has been appointed to inquire into the question of the London water supply, and I think we have a right to call upon the Government that appointed that Committee to give it an Instruction, and I hope they will give it a broad Instruction. I think they should not allow anything to come between the water supply of London until the Report of that Royal Commission has been before us, so that every consideration may be given not only to London, but to any other friendly neighbour that may require a water supply. We do not wish to oppose this Bill passing this afternoon, but we think that the House is bound to take into full consideration the arguments put forward by those best acquainted with the subject.

(4.53.) MR. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)

I was present at the meeting which has been referred to, and I venture to think that if we had only then known that the words which have been read had been used by Sir Thomas Martineau, and that there was an intention on the part of Birmingham to seize upon this district to the exclusion of others, the great mass of the London Members present would have taken up a very different attitude from what they did. We relied absolutely upon the assurance in this matter that Birmingham was not in any way concerned to say that we should never get near this district for a future supply of water. Relying, at all events, upon that assurance, we took a course which we should not have taken under other circumstances. I do not admit that the water supply for Birmingham is a matter of great urgency, for I think the House will probably consider it better to rely on the terms of the Bill, and not on any opinion expressed by any hon. or right hon. Gentleman on that subject. I wish to call attention to one single sentence in this Bill:— Whereas the Corporation have reason to think that the existing source of the supply of water will, at no distant date, prove inadequate to meet the wants of Birmingham, &c. If ever there was a vague demand set forth that is one. It only tells us that it is possible that, at no distant date, the increasing wants of Birmingham will not be met. We think that this question should not be treated as one between London and Birmingham merely. We are not the only towns requiring a water supply from this source. Many others may have to draw their future supply from Wales, and probably Cardiff, which is one of the most growing towns in England, may also require to get its supply from this water-shed. We ask that this question should be treated as a National question; and I say that that never can be done, unless Birmingham gracefully stands aside and awaits the result of the Royal Commission.

(4.56.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

I venture to point out that the House of Commons, in dealing with a Bill of this sort, is acting judicially, and not simply legislating. It has always been the custom of the House of Commons not to assume anything definite, in a judicial case of this sort, on ex parte statements made first from one side and then from the other, there being no means or machinery for testing the accuracy of the statements at all. What the House of Commons always does—and I hope will always do—is to refer investigations of this description to a Select Committee, larger or smaller, as the case may require. They hear the whole case on both sides. Having taken all the evidence, they afterwards submit their decision to the House. This afternoon statements have been made to the House absolutely contradictory on questions of fact. I have heard Members, who must have no acquaintance with Birmingham, say that this was not a case of urgency. I have heard some statements made here in reference to the supply of water for Birmingham which I know to be un- founded. I have heard the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down state that Cardiff would demand this area for water supply.


I made some remarks about the area from which it would draw its water supply.


The hon. Gentleman gave the case of the great town of Cardiff. I had the honour to sit on a Committee which held an investigation with regard to a supply of water for Cardiff, and that Committee decided that Cardiff should have a supply of water which will suffice for many years. I regard these as specimens of the statements made by hon. Gentlemen, I have no doubt in perfect good faith, on the authority of interested parties. The House cannot decide a question like this judicially unless you have the parties before you, and unless you hear the evidence of the witnesses on oath. The House of Commons cannot decide the question whether this proposed locality is demanded by London, or whether it will interfere with the further demands for the locality in Wales. All these are questions of the greatest importance, which the House cannot decide on a Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill. On the Second Reading of a Bill you do not approve of the Preamble of the Bill, but you pass the principle of the Bill. It is for the Committee to which it is sent to decide whether the Preamble is proved or not, and if they decide that the Preamble of the Bill is not proved, they reject the Bill. I cannot see any reason why this case should not be heard before a Committee, and I do not see why hon. Members who object to an ordinary Committee should not call for a Hybrid Committee representing the interests of Wales, and all the other interests concerned. And I would really put it to the House whether this practice of discussing these Private Bills in the House, and of assuming responsibilities of this kind, is not likely to grow to a very great evil before many years. I think Sir Robert Peel, in 1844, pointed out that the House had not the ability to deal with questions of this kind, and that a Committee, where the evidence of the parties could be taken, was the proper tribunal for deciding them. The House, I think, will adopt the most dignified and impartial course if it refer this very complicated, very difficult, and very intricate question to a Select Committee.


I so entirely agree with most of what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that I would have refrained from saying anything, if it had not been for some observations which fell from the hon. Member for Finsbury and the hon. Member for Camberwell with regard to the Royal Commission. I think the hon. Member for Camberwell suggested that the Royal Commission that was appointed should inquire into the needs of Birmingham, and the needs of London, and the needs of towns on the way from Wales to Birmingham, and that it would be advisable not to proceed with the Bill at the present time. Now, I do not want the House to be under any misapprehension as to what is the scope of the inquiry which the Royal Commission is to make; and, certainly, if it inquired into all the matters referred to by the hon. Member for Camberwell, I should very much doubt whether the Report would be likely to get presented to Her Majesty within the next two or three years. But that is not to be the scope of the inquiry. The scope of the inquiry has been communicated to the London County Council; and such an inquiry as has been suggested by the hon. Member for Camberwell does not fall within the scope of the questions to be referred to the Royal Commission. But, now, with regard to the general question. The Second Reading of this Bill is opposed from two points of view. One is the point of view of Wales, and the other is the point of view of London. I think the arguments put forward with regard to Wales would clearly apply just as much in the case of London. London is seeking water from Wales, and Birmingham is seeking water from Wales; so that introduces the question whether Birmingham or London ought to take the water, or whether both ought to take it. That is not a question in which Welsh Members feel a very great interest. What they desire to do is, at any rate, to safeguard Wales in the matter, whoever it may be that takes the water. I think they do not object, as far as I understand, to water being taken from Wales. I think that what protection Wales shall have is a matter essentially for a Committee to inquire into, perhaps a larger Committee than an ordinary Committee. If Birmingham has established its case to compel a water supply from Wales, or if Wales does not object to giving the water to Birmingham or to London, but only desires to have its interests safeguarded, this is essentially a question for evidence to be placed before a Committee, in order that Wales may get that protection which admittedly she ought to get. And if those interested in the matter in Wales cannot for any reason put their full case forward before an ordinary Private Bill Committee, then there is a very strong argument for the appointment of a larger Committee; but it certainly is a matter for a Committee, and I think hon. Members for Wales will admit that. Then comes the question raised on behalf of London. So far as I understand the case, I believe that it is not disputed at all that there is a plentiful supply of water from this source both for London and Birmingham. I do not think anyone has ventured to dispute that statement. Well, then, if that be so, why should we in London object to the people of Birmingham, who really require the water, not taking the water but putting their case before a Committee? The London County Council have a locus standi which will enable them to be represented before that Committee and can put their entire case before the Committee, and the Committee will consider the evidence given in support of the case they desire to put. So that London Members need not be afraid that the claims that London has upon this water will be neglected. What my hon. Friends, or some of them, say is—"Because, perhaps, we may want this water"—not that they actually propose now to go for this water—but "as it may turn out some day that we may go for this water, we object to Birmingham getting a portion of the water until some time when London has formulated her proposition on the subject." If it be the case that the water supply is sufficient for both, then I think it is essentially a matter upon which to make representations to a Committee, in order to secure that London shall receive that protection which she will require against the time when she shall come forward to Parliament to receive its sanction for some scheme for her own supply. And, further, the very tribunal to which this Bill has to go may succeed in arriving at some compromise between London and Birmingham. Evidence may be put before the Committee; and it is often the case that in the course of passing through Committee the one side and the other arrive at some compromise on the subject. And, therefore, I think it is extremely probable that if evidence be allowed to go before a Committee, the Bill will come back to this House in a state satisfactory to Welsh Members, satisfactory to London Members, and in a state that will satisfy the Birmingham people. And if it does not—if the London Members or the Welsh Members should consider that the Bill has come back in a state in which it does not protect them or is not satisfactory to them—then it will be for the House of Commons at that stage to reject the Bill. For my part I should say, as a London Member, that if this Bill did come back in such a condition as to damage any claim London may have to the control of a full and free supply of water from this source, I, for one, should suggest that the Bill should not get a Third Reading. But I do not feel at liberty to object to the Second Reading of the Bill, the sole object of which is to allow a Committee to inquire into the subject.

(5.7.) MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire,) Arfon

I rise to ask a question. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down suggests that the Bill should be referred to a larger Committee than an ordinary Committee, which should have greater powers than a simple Select Committee. I wish to ask him if he will now propose that that Committee should be appointed?


It is not for me to make any propositions on the subject but I should think, if it is the general wish of the House that this Bill should go before a Hybrid Committee, the promoters Would be well advised if they agreed to that course being taken.


Perhaps I may be allowed to say, on behalf of the promoters, that if that is the wish of the House we shall have no objection whatever.


Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Instruction that is to be proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury?


No, Sir; I endeavoured to come to an arrangement with hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway if they would withdraw their opposition to the Second Reading. Since then, the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bury has been sprung upon me, and I have not had time to consider it.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 244; Noes 102.—(Div. List, No. 23.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.


I beg to give notice that, following the suggestion of the President of the Local Government Board, I shall move that this Bill be referred to a Hybrid Committee.

MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

I beg to give notice that I shall move the Instruction standing on the Paper in my name.