§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
MR. F. EDWARDS (Radnorshire) moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He should like to bring before the notice of the House two or three facts concerning this matter. The Provisional Order Bill contained two or three Water Bills—one promoted from Llandrindod Wells. The Llandrindod Local Board objected to the Order on the ground that it contained a monopoly injurious to the town, and the Board petitioned against the Order; and the only result of the Petition was a reduction of the proposed addition to the capital of one-half the amount asked for. That was a very unsatisfactory result, because they contended that the new capital was not necessary, and that if it was sanctioned it would only increase the difficulty of dealing with the Company in the future. The usual method of opposing Bills of this kind, he knew, was to oppose them in Committee. But he thought he was justified in following this course, for the reason that the Bill would be sent to a Committee in order that it should be modified; but the ground taken by the Local Board of Llandrindod Wells was that no modification of the Provisional Order could make it acceptable to the inhabitants at all. They objected to the Bill in toto; and they, therefore, thought it a waste of the ratepayers' money to oppose the Bill in Committee. The Board did not merely oppose the Order in order that nothing might be done, because they were prepared, if the Order were thrown out, to supply the town with a sufficient supply of pure water. They had within their power a
supply better than that in the control of the present Water Company. Therefore, by throwing out the Order, the House would not be doing any injury to the town. In 1884 the Company obtained power to supply Llandrindod Wells with water; but in 1889 they obtained a Provisional Order to increase the amount of capital. He was informed by the authorities that the Company had not yet completed their main undertaking. The reasons why the Board opposed the Order were two. In the first place, the water at present supplied was deficient in quantity. It was a serious charge to make against a Company, which had been in possession of the ground for more than nine years, but it was fully warranted. In 1889 Dr. Spear, a Medical Inspector of the Local Government Board, reported that—
The water supply was in the hands of a private Company, which Company was evidently not satisfying the legitimate requirements of the district. In times of drought the amount of water consumed was not sufficient to afford a constant service.
This was a very serious charge for a representative of the Local Government Board to make, and it was the more serious when they considered that another Department of the Government —the Board of Trade—were issuing a Provisional Order to the Water Company of Llandrindod when the Local Government Board had practically said that that body was not doing its duty as required by the Act. The Secretary to the Local Government Board was almost daily receiving complaints of the inefficiency of the supply; and he (Mr. Edwards) frequently received letters showing that the people were very much dissatisfied with the present system. In the second place, the Board complained that the water supply was defective in quality. The Company got part of their water from springs; but in the summer time, when the population of the town was considerably enlarged, they had recourse to the river which ran through the town. This river was not a fit source of supply, for there were on its banks many villages and farmhouses emptying their sewage into it. This statement was borne out by the Report of Dr. Spear, in which the following passage occurred:—
I am informed on reliable authority that the Company proposes to supplement the present inadequate supply by pumping water
from a stream that flows near Llandrindod Wells, and that receives a considerable amount of sewage from hamlets and individual houses above the proposed pumping station. Such an arrangement must be regarded as most unsatisfactory, the amount of filtration which such a water is likely to undergo is not to be relied upon to remove dangerous impurity.
The water supply was not only insufficient, but grossly defective in quality, and the filtration system was deficient. The Company, however, which had a monopoly in the town, charged twice as much for the supply as was the case in the neighbouring town. The Local Board was of opinion that this was simply a speculative undertaking, and to sanction it must entail further burdens on the ratepayers. Although the scheme had been completed six years ago, no arrangement had been made for the flushing of sewers, which was a matter of great importance to health. The Local Board consisted of nine persons elected by the ratepayers, representing themselves one-sixth of the rateable valuation of the place. If this Board was given a voice in the work of supplying water to the people they would push it forward adequately. They are the proper authority to be considered in the matter. He begged to move the Amendment standing in his name.
§ 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. Edwards.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ *THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BURT,) Morpeth
said, the Bill scheduled, and was to confirm, three Provisional Orders relating to water undertakings—the first in Llandrindod Wells, the second at Maidenhead, and the third at Newington, near Hull. The hon. Member who had just spoken forwarded to the Board of Trade a letter which he had received from the Local Board of Llandrindod Wells, asking him to oppose the confirmation of the Order, and the Department furnished the hon. Member with a complete reply, stating the reasons which induced them to grant the Order, for which the hon. Gentleman expressed his thanks. The opposition to the Bill was, no doubt, entirely due to the Llandrindod Order, as the other 1160 two Orders were consented to by the Local Authorities. The Llandrindod Order was simply for power to raise additional capital; and, that being so, the consent of the Local Authority was not required, either by the Gas and Water Works Facilities Act (1870) or the Rules of the Board of Trade. The facts of the case, as communicated to the hon. Member in the letter to which he (Mr. Burt) had referred, were these— the original draft Order deposited by the promoters of the Llandrindod Wells Water Company—which is a company incorporated by special Act of Parliament—was to authorise the Company to raise additional capital amounting to £2,000 by shares and £500 by loan, for the purpose of paying off certain debts incurred on capital account and meeting the cost of extending mains within the authorised limits of supply. The Board of Trade received in due course a statement of objections from the Local Board of. Llandrindod Wells, containing allegations with respect to the quality of the water supplied by the Company; but the Department did not at any time receive from the Local Board any definite proposal for the amendment of the Order. The reply of the Water Company to the objections of the Local Board stated that their supply was drawn partly from springs and partly by pumping from the River Ithon; and it was against the latter source that the complaint of the Local Authority was directed. The Water Company put in a Report by Mr. Blunt, County Analyst for Shropshire and Staffordshire, on the river water, after filtration, but before its admixture with the spring water. The analyst gave his opinion as follows:—This sample has the character of a good upland water, slightly peaty, but quite free from deleterious organic matters. It is soft and well adapted for general domestic use; and it might be pronounced an excellent water.The Water Company's reply also included this statement, which was not controverted in the rejoinder of the Local Board—Not a single definite complaint has been made to the Company since the construction of the new works, saving a letter from the Clerk to the Local Board, forwarding two anonymous communications complaining of the water. He was asked, in reply, to state the names of the complainants, in order that the matter might be investigated; but he declined to furnish information.1161 In view of the result of the only analysis of the water which was submitted to the Board of Trade, and for other reasons, the Board did not consider they would be justified in refusing the Order and leaving the Company without capital to meet the requirements of the undertaking, which might include the cost of measures to improve their water supply. Bearing in mind, however, that the question of purchasing the Company's undertaking had been mentioned by the Local Authority, the Board of Trade reduced the proposed capital to a sum of £1,000 by shares and £250 by loan, and, at the same time, reduced the maximum dividend payable on such dividend by 1 per cent. on what had previously been authorised. As well as impugning the quality of the water, the Local Board alleged that the pumping from the river was illegal. These questions were not affected by the granting of the Order, and the remedy provided by law was just as available to the Local Board as if the Order had been refused. But what would probably be deemed a conclusive reason against the Motion to reject the Bill was this—that it would be contrary to precedent, and would involve the sacrifice of the two other Orders which were scheduled to the same Bill. If the Second Reading were passed, the Local Board could petition against the Order; and as their locus standi would probably be allowed, it would then be referred to a Select Committee, which would receive evidence, and decide the matter accordingly. The Local Board had told the hon. Member that they were not disposed to petition for fear of causing expense to the ratepayers. He would like to add that since the Order was granted the Board of Trade had received from the Local Board copies of some letters, purporting to come from residents, complaining, not of impurity, but of shortness of supply. This seemed to be a matter eminently requiring further capital to rectify. He hoped the hon. Member would not press his Motion, but would accept the suggestion which he (Mr. Burt) had made, and allow the Bill to pass.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon, &c.)
said, the official analyst of the Local Government Board had reported against the quality of the water; there was 1162 another source of supply in the district which was much better which would yield 200,000 gallons daily. The quality of the water was much purer in the latter source, while the supply would be under the control of the Local Board. As to the question of petitioning, to do that would be to entail a large expense on a population which was very thin and could not bear such heavy burdens. He had experience of a small place petitioning before a Committee of that House and of the heavy additional burden that resulted, and he was of opinion that the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill had exercised a wise discretion in coming before the House to ventilate the grievance of which he had to complain. He hoped the House would reject the scheme.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. MUNDELLA,) Sheffield, Brightside
said, he hoped the opposition to the Bill would not be persisted in. It was impossible for the House to deal with the question of this local water supply. A Petition to the Committee would be properly considered, and it was not right that the time of the House should be taken up in considering whether this or that source of supply was the better one. It was purely a local question, and he trusted the discussion would not go further, and that the Amendment would be withdrawn.
§ MAJOR E. R. JONES (Carmarthen, &c.)
said, they had had great experience of the right hon. Gentleman's advice in local matters; but he trusted the House of Commons would, at all events, go so far in the direction of Home Rule as to allow this locality to have its own representative Board to manage its affairs in the matter of water supply. He would appeal to hon. Members opposite (the Irish Members) to go into the Division Lobby with his hon. Friend and himself on this occasion. The water supplied in this place was shown by the Reports to be very bad water; and it should depend on the people themselves to say whether they were willing to pay for water that would injure the community, or whether they would prefer to have a fresh supply. It was a very important fact that the Local Board could get a pure and adequate supply from one of the mountains in the neighbourhood. He hoped the Bill would be rejected.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 156; Noes 114.—(Division List, No. 91.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.