§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Dr. Farquharson.)
§ * MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, he proposed to move as an Amendment that the Bill he read a second time that day six months. He would do it as briefly as he could. This Bill was identically the same as was rejected by the House on the Second Reading 12 months ago, and the reasons for its rejection on that occasion by a substantial majority were twofold: First, that it was unnecessary and not urgent; and, secondly, that it tended to prejudge the question of the future water supply of London. On the present occasion these arguments applied with intensified force, because the Royal Commission which had sat on the London Water Supply question had reported—and in their Report would be found abundant proof—that this Water Company had not only an adequate supply of water for the present and for many years to come, but was actually able to supply its present needs subject to the conditions which were proposed to be imposed upon it by the Royal Commission. It would be for him to make these statements good, and he was able to do so by referring to the evidence as well as to the Report. If the House passed this Bill the effect would be to saddle the future Water Authority of London and the neighbourhood, and that meant practically the ratepayers, with a very large amount of 1382 capital which really was not required, as he would be able to show to the House, in the event of the water supply of London in the future being taken not from the Lea and from the Thames, but from outside sources. This was a very serious question. Already a very considerable amount of capital had been expended on the development of the water supply from the Lea and the Thames. The London County Council, in opposing this Bill, was not seeking to decide against the supply being taken from those sources, for he would remind the House that the Royal Commission had stated that, under certain circumstances with respect to storage and purification, the Thames and the Lea together were sufficient to provide a sufficient water supply for any probable extension of population. That might be so or not, but it was simply a, contribution to the main question which would have to be settled before they could come to a, decision as to in what form the London water supply was in the future to be secured. The Royal Commission was called upon to decide first whether the areas of the Thames and Lea. Valleys were sufficient, and it was only in event of their coming to the conclusion that they were insufficient that they were to go into the question of other sources of supply. But, as a matter of fact, they came to the conclusion that the areas would be sufficient for all practical purposes. Although the London County Council did not, by opposing this Bill at the present moment, seek to prejudge the question, he felt that that body would fall exceedingly far short in its duty if it allowed any steps to be taken which would ignore the natural desire of the people of London to have outside sources of supply. The interests of the London County Council, and of Loudon generally, were as a matter of fact identical with the interests of the inhabitants of Essex, Middlesex, and neighbouring counties. When this Bill was before the House on a previous occasion a member of the Essex County Council, the member who in this House represented North Somerset, spoke very strongly in regard to the matter. What was the position as it then stood? There was no doubt a clause in the Bill as originally brought in respecting the fittings of the Water Company, but the clause had been withdrawn by the Com- 1383 pany. They indicated their intention to withdraw it before the Bill came on for discussion on the Second Reading. The London County Council were not taking this step in their own interest as against the interests of Essex or against any other county. All they desired was to oppose the granting of unnecessary capital to the Companies which the Water Authorities for various districts would have eventually, with the consent of the House, to acquire. They objected to giving them capital for undertakings which were not at this moment urgent, and which would prejudge the great question likely to arise in the immediate future. There was a point in connection with the Bill which had nothing to do with the important question of supply. He referred to the question of mains, and he would state at once to hon. Gentlemen who supported the Bill that if they desired to have new mains laid down in order to supply their districts, and if they could show before a Committee of this House that it was desirable to have those mains, then if the Bill were, as he hoped it would be, thrown out, and if those who represented the East London Company chose to introduce a Bill dealing with the question of mains they would find no opposition raised, and on the contrary every assistance afforded them in the direction of the suspension of Standing Orders, so that they might carry that particular portion of their scheme to a Committee. But the amount of additional capital proposed to be raised under this Bill was £500,000, of which only about £20,000 annually for seven years was asked for for mains and similar purposes. He proposed now to deal with the argument contained in the statement sent out by the promoters of the Bill. The first thing to which he had to draw attention was the statement in Clause 5, that unless they obtained the powers they were now seeking the new districts which were being developed would, for an indefinite period, run a serious risk in sanitary matters by reason of the insufficiency of the water supply. That he ventured to flatly deny, and he hoped he would be able to prove to the House that this was a misapprehension of the existing state of things. He asserted that not only had the East London Company water enough to supply all their mains, but that it had 1384 been proved by their own witnesses before the Royal Commission that the supply was ample. The promoters asserted that if these new populations which were growing up were to be supplied with wholesome water, new mains and pipes would have to be at once laid down in the new districts, large reservoirs would have to be established, and the necessary machinery fixed. He repeated, as to new mains and pipes, that was a very small matter indeed, and again he offered if hon. Gentlemen opposite would withdraw the rest of the Bill, he, on the part of the London County Council, would offer no objection to that portion of the scheme receiving legislative sanction, providing, of course, that the investigation of a Committee of the House proved the existence of the necessity for these extensions. But the Bill generally involved a very important question—namely, the water supply of London for the next 40 years, and this was a matter which he ventured to suggest was tit to be decided not by a Committee of the House, but by the House itself. What he hoped he would be able to show hon. Members was that the question of the sufficiency of the sources of supply from the Lea and the Thames was not one of which it was necessary to come to any decision at the present time. According to the evidence given by the promoters of the Bill before the Royal Commission, the East London Company were at present supplying an average of 40,000,000 gallons daily, and the engineer to the Company stated that whereas that was, at the time he was giving his evidence, the present requirement of the Company, five years hence it would be necessary to supply 42,000,000 gallons daily, and 10 years hence—namely, in 1901, the quantity required would be 44,000,000 gallons. Thus in 10 years there would be an increase of 10 per cent. in the requirements of the Company. These statements by the engineer were subjected to a close examination, as would be found on reference to the evidence. Now, he ventured to suggest, there was nothing alarming in the growth which the officials of the Company estimated would have to be provided for. The Company at present supplied 40,000,000 gallons daily; 10 years hence they would be required to supply 44,000,000. But what was the 1385 amount of water the Company was able, if necessary, to supply? In the first place, they admitted that they had supplied, and could supply, 37,000,000 gallons per day from the River Lea. They also admitted that they had consecutively for weeks supplied from the River Thames 10,000,000 gallons per day, and they further admitted in their evidence that for weeks successively on different occasions they had supplied from their own wells 7,000,000 gallons per day. These statements were contained in evidence given in 1892, and they showed that the Company had the absolute power of supplying from these different sources 54,000,000 gallons daily without finding it necessary to make any additional provision. That being so, and their sources of supply being so much in excess of what they estimated would be their daily requirements 10 years hence, he did venture to submit to the House that it was undesirable by passing this Bill to prejudge the whole question of the future supply of London, and he thought he had made it quite clear that the Bill did prejudge that question, because all the Company had to do to get what they required was to use the powers which they at present possessed of pumping from their wells and of taking water from the Thames. The Royal Commission had reported that the Company ought not to take more than 30,000,000 gallons of water daily from the Lea, and they had suggested that increased storage accommodation was desirable. The promoters stated that the storage works which the Hill proposed to authorise were being provided on the recommendation of the Royal Commission and were immediately necessary; but that was not a fair statement of the case; and if the Company would take its full supply from the Thames and the wells, which amounted to 17,000,000 gallons, they need not abstract more than 27,000,000 gallons from the Lea, and even then they would have an absolutely sufficient supply for the next 10 years. Besides the water capacity they had, they had the power of inter-sale between the various Companies that existed, and they could increase the quantity of water they could get from the Thames to an almost indefinite extent by the exercise of that power. There was accessible to the East Loudon Water Company an 1386 amount of 10,000,000 gallons more than their immediate requirements without any extra capital being laid out, and it might proceed to supply all its needs for the next 10 years, and yet diminish very considerably its supply from the Lea. Again, it was quite obvious that greater storage capacity was not required by the Company. Its storage was the largest, with one exception, of any Company in London. It had storage capacity for 910,000,000 gallons, equal to 14 or 15 days' supply, whereas the average storage was something like six days' supply. There was only one other point he wished to put to the House respecting Clause 3, and it related to machinery. It might be said that the Company required further machinery, but the evidence given before the Royal Commission showed very clearly that they had abundant engine supplies. In the Report of the Royal Commission, in Questions 660 and 661, there was a statement of the enormous amount of machinery possessed by the Company for pumping purposes, and it appeared that they had more than 50per cent. of stand-by or surplus power in all of their different districts. The Chairman of the Commission asked—We may take it that your present machinery is modern high-class machinery doing good duty?To which the reply was—Splendid duty. All our new engines are triple expansion engines.So much for the points in respect of the third clause of the statement of the promoters. He would turn to one other point. It was stated in the evidence before the Commission itself that the reservoirs proposed in this Bill were not to provide water for what was needed now, but for very distant and future requirements. The engineer and secretary to the Company had laid before the Royal Commission a statement as to what the Company could supply, and how it could meet all present and prospective needs. They were summoned back to deal with the point of additional provisional supply, because the Commission felt it would still investigate how the additional supply could be provided and that, additional supply was what was referred to in this 1387 Bill. Here was what passed on this subject before the Royal Commission—The Chairman: You have already taken, I think, about 37,000,000 gallons daily from the Lea?—Yes.Then do you think if you raise the racecourse reservoir and make the two projected reservoirs—that was what was proposed to be done by this Bill—you can get 40,000,000 gallons a day without making the new compensation reservoirs?—Speaking from my experience at the present time we can do so.It would be seen, therefore, that the provision of these reservoirs which were proposed in this Bill was to make arrangements for the supply of 40,000,000 gallons in place of 30,000,000, but he had shown that by even a much less amount than 30,000,000 gallons daily taken from the River Lea—although they were taking much more than that—the East London Company could supply all that was required. It was necessary for those who opposed the Bill to show how very dangerous and doubtful were the sources of supply from which the East London Water Company proposed to take this extra quantity, because if it was no matter where the supply came from, they might as well let them take it from there as elsewhere. The Royal Commission reported as follows about the supplies from the Thames and the Lea, which were proposed to be taken for the next 40 years by the Company:—Having regard to the experience of London during the last 30 years and to the evidence given on the subject, we do not believe that any danger exists of the spread of disease by the use of this water provided there is no adequate storage, and that the water is sufficiently filtered before being delivered to consumers.It was exactly that adequate storage and the additional filterage which required the expenditure of very large sums of money. But what did the Royal Commissioners themselves say on the subject? Mr. Mansergh himself, one of the Royal Commissioners, was examined before a Royal Commission of this House on behalf of the Birmingham Corporation, and on that occasion he said that any river flowing through an enormous tract of agricultural country must produce water which nowadays they would not think of supplying. He knew (said Mr. Mansergh) that many districts would 1388 not have water from such a source; and he knew of places which had had to abandon costly works simply because of the water procurable from such a source being gradually polluted, and they did not want to repeat that in Birmingham. It was because they did not want to repeat that in London, and at any rate because they did not want to be forced into repeating it unnecessarily, that he raised opposition to the Bill at the present moment, and the House would see that there were many considerations about the supply from the Lea and the Thames. The Commission did not investigate any other supplies; they did not bring out what would be the relative expenses of supplying London from these and from external sources. They who opposed this Bill believed the Company would supply inferior water from the Thames and the Lea at a much greater cost than would be entailed by bringing water from external districts. They had also the important question of the impurity of the water from an agricultural district to take into account, and, on these grounds, they opposed the Bill being read a second time, because, as he had shown, it unnecessarily endeavoured to prejudge the question. The Loudon County Council was perfectly willing to make overtures for itself becoming the Water Authority. It had got these powers under the Act of 1892; it was willing to take this responsibility itself, and it had offered by resolution passed some time ago to treat with the Water Companies for taking over their undertakings on fair and reasonable terms. It had applied to this very Company, and to the other Company which had a Bill down, and they had refused to negotiate with the Council. ["No, no!"] Well, they did not accept the basis of negotiations which the County Council proposed, but they made no counter proposal. The County Council had passed a further resolution to the effect that, if the Company would not come to terms, the Council ought to move this House to determine the question. He might appeal confidently to Members on both sides of the House who represented great Municipalities to say that it was a fair and right thing for the County Council to endeavour to acquire these various Companies; but they did not want to acquire them with a dead limb of capital attached to them at this 1389 moment, when it was unnecessary, and which prejudged the question of whether they were going to get their supply through them or through other sources. Even if the County Council did not become the Water Authority, the body which did become such authority ought to be able to decide where the future supplies ought to come from; and even if it came from the valley of the Thames and Lea, it did not at all stand to reason that the first step in the undertaking should be more capital expended on a reservoir for the Lea when they considered the circumstances of the Thames. He contended that this Bill was absolutely unnecessary from the point of the supply of the quantity or quality of water, because it had been shown before the Royal Commission that there was ability in this Company to get vastly more than it required for the next 10 years from sources which the Royal Commission approved of, and which needed no further expenditure for works. The expenditure proposed by this Bill on reservoirs, filters, and pumping, was an expenditure for a far distant period, which should be incurred only if they required to get a supply for 40 years, or for a very long period of time, from the Lea. The other districts of London, Essex, and the borders of the London County Council district, were equally interested with the London County Council in securing that there should not be this dead limit of capital attached. This was a matter of vital importance to the health of the people of London and the surrounding neighbourhoods, and he asked this House to defend them against such a prejudging of this question as would take place if the present Bill be sent up to a Committee at the present time. If the Bill were thrown out—as he hoped it might be—he and his friends had no objection to its being brought up again so far as it related to the provision of mains, but they could not allow the Bill to prejudge the all-important question of where the London water supplies were to come from. He begged to move "That the Bill be read a second time upon this day six mouths."
§ 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. J. Stuart.)1390
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ * MR. BOULNOIS (Marylebone, E.)
did not propose to follow the hon. Member for Hoxton in the details which he had presented to the House upon this Bill, and indeed he looked upon the hon. Gentleman positively as an advocate for reading the Bill a second time and sending it to a Committee, because it was clearly evident to the House that it was quite impossible they could master the details which the hon. Member had put before them, and which were essentially matters for the ordinary Committee of this House to deal with. There were one or two principles involved in this question which he must shortly place before the House. Of course, it was quite impossible upon this occasion to dissociate the two Companies whose Hills were before the House to-day, because the statement issued by the London County Council not only classed these two Bills together, but went so far as to include a third, which was not even down for Second Heading. The position of those Water Companies applying now to Parliament for further capital and an extension of powers was shortly this: They had come to the end of their tether as far as money was concerned, and if they were to fulfil their statutory obligations to supply water they must have more money, because to supply the water they must have more reservoirs and more filtering power. Last year this Company applied to Parliament for further powers, the Bill being thrown out on the Second Beading, and the main reason then given by the hon. Member for Hoxton, who led the attack, was that there was a Royal Commission sitting, and it was quite premature for the Water Company to ask for further powers until such Commission had reported. That argument could no longer be urged. The Royal Commission had reported favourably as far as the Loudon water was concerned, and it was, indeed, entirely in consequence of the Report of the Royal Commission that those Water Companies sought further powers. The House would permit him to read one paragraph from the Report of the Royal Commission, which was perhaps the most important in the whole Report. 1391 The Commissioners stated they were strongly of opinion that the water as supplied to the consumer in London was of a very high standard of excellence and purity, and that it was suitable in quality for all household purposes. The Commissioners further stated that they were aware that a certain prejudice existed against drinking water supplied from the Thames and the Lea, but they did not believe that there was any danger of the spread of disease from the use of such water, provided there was adequate storage for it, and that the water was efficiently filtered before it was delivered to the consumers. It was because of the desire to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission, to provide adequate reservoirs and means to filter the water properly, that the Companies now came for further powers. The Water Companies in the last four or five years had been applied to from time to time by the Local Government Board with reference particularly to storage. He held in his hand a letter from the Local Government Board to one of the Water Companies, written at the close of the year 1891, which said—I am directed by the Local Government Board to draw the attention of the Company to Dr. Frankland's Report for October, from which it appears evident that the Company are unable to deal satisfactorily with the water when the Thames is in flood, and I am to state that the Metropolitan Water Examiner reports to them that it is now necessary that the Company should consider the question of making such sufficient addition to their works as will enable them to supply water of better quality than is now done when the circumstances are as above stated.To that the Company promptly replied, pointing out, in reference to the state of the water when the Thames was in flood, that it was due at that time to the exceptionally heavy rains which had been of long duration, and they went on to say—The Directors are fully alive to the importance of ample storage, and the desirability of increasing the present reservoir capacity would have been considered before this had it not been for the manner in which the Companies had been hampered by recent proceedings in Parliament. They are, however, quite prepared to entertain the question and to seek powers from the Legislature to raise fresh capital for the purpose, and I am instructed to ask if, on such an application being made, the Directors may hope that it will receive the support of the Local Government Board.1392 So much for the Local Government Board and its application to the Water Companies to increase their storage and filter power. What happened at the London County Council in consequence of the Report of the Royal Commission? The subject had been very fully considered by the Water Committee of the London County Council. It was all very well for the Member for Hoxton to say that they wanted more time, but they had already considered and reported on the question very fully. He had with him extracts from the most important Reports which had been made to the London County Council. The first was the statement made by the Chairman of the Water Committee, Mr. Bassett Hopkins, an able gentleman who had taken a great interest in the question, and this was what he said—The paramount necessity of acceding to any well-grounded demand for augmented supply may make such a demand irresistible, and in this case the policy of the Council is, while not opposing the demand (within the strict limits of what is required), to prevent its being accompanied by the inconvenience just referred to.Then there was a short paragraph from the Report of Mr. Binnie, the chief engineer to the Loudon County Council, who was himself a very eminent water engineer, and who clearly was not in favour of the supply of London being drawn from the Thames. Mr. Binnie said—Mere opposition"—and that was what they had to-day—Mere opposition to the applications of the Companies by the Council must be followed by certain and ignominious defeat, for the whole drift of the evidence placed before the Royal Commissioners by the witnesses for the Council went to show that London requires more water and extended works; and if the Companies are to continue to perform the duties imposed upon them further powers of some kind must be conferred.These were strong words, and if the Water Company were to base their ease on no other they would be justified in coming to Parliament. Mr. Cripps, the able Parliamentary agent of the London County Council, said—… It would have been difficult to resist the contention of the Water Companies, those being the statutory bodies authorised to supply water in London; they ought to be furnished with ample capital powers to meet not only the present, but the prospective, demands upon them. The inquiry before the Royal Com- 1393 mission has now elicited and afforded to the Council probably all the best information available upon this subject. When, therefore, the Council opposes, as I think they should oppose, the large increase of capital, and possibly the new works proposed under the present Bills, it is. I think, obvious that the absence of any definite conclusion as to general policy may render it less easy to justify withholding' from the Companies the powers which they are now seeking.He had quoted these Reports of the officials of the London County Council in order to show that the Council had come to Parliament to oppose these Bills with their eyes wide open and practically against the advice of those responsible to them for giving advice. The London County Council claimed to act for the County of London, and he did not deny them the right to do so, but he did not think they had any mandate to take any part, for those outside the County of London—either in the Counties of Essex or Middlesex, both of which counties were touched by these Bills. The West Middlesex Water Company had 27 square miles of mains, 9½ of which only were in the County of London and 17½ outside, and yet the Loudon County Council came down and said not only that the people of London, but the unfortunate people outside the area of London, were to go without water, because that was what it would come to if this Bill were rejected. The London County Council themselves admitted that it would take from 15 to 20 years before they could mature a scheme for what they considered an adequate and proper supply of water for London, and he did not know what might happen in the meantime if the Loudon County Council, year after year, came down to oppose those who, by Act of Parliament, were now the Water Authorities of London—especially if they had such a summer as they had last year—because these works, though authorised by Parliament, could not be undertaken immediately, and could not be carried to fruition without a considerable lapse of time. The hon. Member for Hoxton referred to the fact that the London County Council were in treaty with the Water Companies. It was true that the London County Council made application to the Water Companies to know whether they would come to terms, but they attached such impossible conditions and terms to their application that it was quite im- 1394 possible that the Water Companies could accede to them. In the statement of the London County Council which had been circulated the bold assertion was made that the London County Council applied to the Water Companies to sell their undertaking to the County Council on fair and reasonable terms, but that the Companies had combined together and declined to negotiate. So far as these two Companies before the House were concerned, that statement was absolutely untrue. The Companies had not declined to negotiate, but they had said very properly, as any Water Company directors would do who acted in the interests of their shareholders, that they had a fine property which they did not wish to sell, but that if any proposition were put before them it should receive their best consideration. No proposition of any sort or kind had ever been put before the Water Companies by the London County Council. Until the County Council put their proposal in a definite shape and gave some figures which the Water Companies could deal with it, was not likely they would come to terms with the Water Companies, and it was extremely unfair to say they had offered to negotiate, and that the Companies had declined negotiation. He would point out that in these applications which were made for further capital and extended powers the shareholders would derive no benefit whatever. There was only one more point which, though a small one, should not be entirely lost sight of, and that was, that the London County Council were adopting what, he might term a selfish and dog-in-the-manger policy in this matter. They themselves would do nothing, and they asked Parliament to prevent the Water Companies doing anything, which was very much on all-fours with their improvement schemes. The County Council then came to Parliament and said they would do nothing in the way of improvements unless they gave them "betterment," and now they said to the Water Companies they would prevent such Companies getting any further powers unless they were willing to sell their undertakings to the Council practically at the price of old iron. That was a selfish policy which, he was sure, would not commend itself to this House. It must be re- 1395 collected that this money which it was proposed to expend would give employment to thousands of working-men of the labouring class during the winter months when employment was difficult to get. He maintained that these Bills ought to go to a Select Committee in the ordinary way, so that the details could be threshed out. The London County Council would have a full opportunity of putting their case be-fore the Committee, and they could ask the Committee to deal with all the questions which had been raised by the hon. Member for Hoxton as to whether the expenditure should be confined to mains, reservoirs, or filter beds, or whether less money should be given to these Companies. It was quite impossible for this House—especially with so much business before it—to enter into details of this kind. Even if the Select Committee upstairs passed this Bill as it was, or with amendment, the London County Council were even then not estopped from coming and asking the House to reject the Bill on the Third Reading. He threw aside altogether the suggestion dropped at the last moment by the hon. Member for Hoxton, that if the Water Companies would bow down to the London County Council and take out the essential part of the Bill and confine their application to mains for new districts, then the Council would not oppose them. He would remind the hon. Member and the House that mains alone were not of any use to a Water Company. They could not turn the water straight from the Thames or the Lea into these mains, and then distribute it to consumers. They must manufacture the water, store it for a reasonable period before use, and then filter it before it passed to the mains for distribution. He asked the House to adopt the usual course of sending these Bills to a Committee upstairs, which was the only tribunal recognised by this House as capable of dealing with such questions.
§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. SHAW-LEFEVRE,) Bradford, Central
It will, perhaps, be to the convenience of the House if I rise somewhat early in this discussion for the purpose of stating what my opinion is as to the course the House should take in regard to the Bill before 1396 us. The Bill is one of three Water Bills which have been promoted by the Water Companies of London for the purpose of providing themselves with capital for the erection of very extensive works to increase the supply of water. The London County Council oppose this Bill on the ground, in the first place, that they have not yet had time fully to consider the Report of the Royal Commission of last year; that they ought to have time fully to consider that Report, with a view to determining what shall be the policy in regard to the future; and, secondly, that they will be prejudiced by the passing of this Bill in their negotiations with the Water Companies. I have carefully considered the subject at the Local Government Board, and I have come to the conclusion that there is a good deal of force in the objection of the -London County Council. This Bill is identical with the Bill which was presented last year—["No, no!"]—or almost identical. The Bill was rejected last year on the ground that the Royal Commission was then sitting, and it was not expedient to increase the powers of the Water Companies pending the Report of the Commission. The Commission, no doubt, has reported in the interval, but it only reported at the end of September last, and there was not time after that Report of the Commission was in hand for the London County-Council to come to a decision as to what should be done upon it, to frame proposals upon it and give notice to this House in the ordinary course. In these circumstances, it appears to me that the same policy ought to prevail this year as last year, and that this Bill ought not to be proceeded with at the present moment, but that further time ought to be given to the London County Council to deal with the whole subject. The fact is, that the Report of the Royal Commission has made a new position in the matter. The Royal Commission recommended, no doubt, that the Thames and Lea Valley water, with a sufficient storage and adequate provision for filtration, would be suited for many years to come for the supply of London, but they also made some further important recommendations. They recommended that a very large reservoir should be erected in the Thames Valley near to Staines. They recommended that further great 1397 reservoirs should be made in the Lea Valley; that further inspection powers should be given to the authorities for the purpose of securing that the water supplied by the Companies was properly filtered. A further recommendation of the Royal Commission was that there should be an inspection of all the tributaries of the Thames to secure the water from being polluted. On the other hand, the Royal Commission did not report as to the cost of these works. They did not give any indication as to what it would cost to provide reservoirs, and they did not consider any of the schemes which have been suggested as alternative to those now recommended. The schemes which are before us in the shape of the proposals of the Water Companies are not in accordance with the scheme of the Royal Commission. ["Oh!"] I believe I am fully justified in saying that. The East London Company, no doubt, proposes to make a reservoir in the Lea Valley, but the two other Companies, although they propose to add to the storage works, do not propose to add to them in the manner indicated by the Royal Commission. One would have expected that the Water Companies, after the Report of the Royal Commission, would have combined together for the purpose of propounding a scheme in exact accordance with the Report of the Royal Commission. They have not done so, but they have each come to Parliament with their separate schemes for their own works on their own lines without any joint action with regard to the long future; without making provision for these extensive reservoirs which were contemplated by the Royal Commission, without any method for increasing the extension of their water and for ensuring the purity of the water in the tributaries of the Thames. They have simply proposed to act upon the old lines of each Water Company ex-tending its own works without any joint or combined action and without any reference to the great scheme of the Royal Commission. I think, under those circumstances, it is well worthy the consideration of the House whether these Bills should be proceeded with this year. In my opinion, further time ought to be given for the consideration of the whole subject. There can be no doubt, in my opinion, that if these Bills are passed the position of the Water Companies will be 1398 greatly strengthened. They will be in-dependent of the County Council, and will be in a position to refuse to negotiate with them. ["How?"] Under these circumstances, I think the London County Council are justified in asking for further delay, and the only question is whether that delay will be prejudicial to the interests of the London people. That is no doubt a, very serious question, but I cannot bring myself to believe that a delay of one year will make any great difference in this respect. ["Two years!"] I have had some hesitation in coming to a conclusion on this point. But, after all, the London County Council should be the best judge in these matters. They must knew the wants of their own people, and it appears to me when a great Municipality like London comes before this House and asks for delay in coming to a conclusion upon a matter so vitally affecting their interests—when they come to this House and ask that they may have another year before a measure of this kind is passed and before further concessions are made to the London Water Companies, they are entitled to the patient and careful hearing of this House, and on the whole I am inclined to advise the House to listen to the demand in that respect of the London County Council and not allow this Bill to be further proceeded with this year. After all, it will amount only to a delay of a single year. In the interval the London County Council will be in a position to make the further inquiries which they contemplate, and for my part, while I advise this course to the House, I think it must be with this reservation: I think we ought to expect that next year the London County Council will come before Parliament with a definite scheme for dealing with this question—with a definite policy and definite scheme which will be elaborated in the interval. On the other hand, I think that the Water Companies ought on their part to take advantage of the interval for the purpose of combining together to produce a joint scheme to carry out the recommendation of the Royal Commission of last year, for the purpose of providing these increased reservoirs for the supply of water for London, and also for the purpose of carrying out all these further recommendations of the Royal Commission for the better securing the purity and im- 1399 proving generally the condition of the water supply of London. It is in this view, and considering that a delay of one year cannot make a serious difference in the supply of water to London, that I am of opinion that the House should follow the same course which it adopted last year, and postpone the consideration of this important and vital question for another year, and not proceed with these three Water Bills in the current year.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I should have been astonished at the course which the Government have taken upon this occasion if anything which the Government does were likely now to cause astonishment. The right hon. Gentleman says that on the whole he is prepared to recommend the House to vote against these two Bills, but there was a certain amount of timidity in the way in which he uttered the sentence, and I am not surprised at it. Now, Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to represent a London constituency of consumers of water, and I maintain that they are as much entitled to be heard as either the Water Companies or the London County Council. The right hon. Gentleman speaks as if the matter is one which affects the London County Council alone. But the Chairman of the Essex County Council is imploring the authorities to proceed with this Bill; and is Essex to be starved of water and a dangerous delay to be incurred in order that the London County Council may be given more time to elaborate a scheme for the purchase of the Water Companies? I am not thinking of the Water Companies, but rather of the consumers of water. What is the situation? What evidence does the House possess that this delay is justified? Unless the right hon. Gentleman is prepared with a stronger conviction than he appears to entertain as to the propriety of rejecting this Bill he ought not to run the serious risk of delaying these operations. A year is of enormous importance when works of this kind are to be undertaken, and I protest, on behalf of the Metropolitan consumers of water, against the delay of another year in a matter of this importance. Let it be remembered that the question is not whether the Bills are to be carried or not, but whether they are to be examined or not. If the right hon. Gentle- 1400 man has got a case let it go to the Select Committee. Let them go to a Hybrid Committee, and let the whole matter be examined. The hon. Member for Hoxton, who represents the London County Council, gave us a good deal of detailed information. I wonder whether any one single Member of the House was able to follow the mass of details. It is eminently a question which must be examined by a Select Committee. The Select Committee would examine the question of capital; it would examine the question of whether there is to be a dead limb attached to the purchase by the County Council, as was suggested in picturesque terms by the hon. Member who opposes this Bill. But do hon. Members opposite and does the Government not trust a Committee? This might be not a Committee of Metropolitan Members, not a Committee composed of those acquainted with these matters, but representing probably what might be described as a microcosm, a miniature of the House? Is it not preposterous that a Government which makes speech after speech in favour of devolution should encourage a Debate of this kind, which consumes valuable time, because it fears to have the question relegated for inquiry to a Select Committee? The Government would have saved time if they had accepted this proposition and allowed a Select Committee to deal with the matter. Can we suspect that one of their motives is that a vote of this House will be different to what it will be on the Select Committee, and, at this moment, when we are asked that Scotchmen should be allowed to manage their own affairs, are Scotch and Irish votes to deprive the Metropolis of the power of having their water for another year? I would remind the House that the Chairman of the Select Committee last year appealed to the House that the matter should be referred to a Select Committee, and I think that, even then, neither the Government nor the majority listened to the Chairman of the Select Committee. No, it was to be referred to a Committee upstairs. If we are to be dealt with in this manner, if at the bidding of the County Council—because do not let us disguise the fact that otherwise the Government would have allowed these two Bills to go to a Committee—if this be so, may I ask 1401 those hon. Members for Scotland who think that Scotchmen ought to manage their own affairs to abstain from taking part in the coming Division, which is on a purely Metropolitan question? By their action we shall see the sincerity of their desire that each locality should manage its own affairs in which they have interest. I make the same appeal to the Welsh Members and to the Irish Members. Let the Metropolis decide this matter for itself, and if it is so allowed I am pretty certain how the Metropolis will decide. The Metropolis will ask for the water supply, and if it cannot get the water, at all events we wish that a Committee of this House should thoroughly inquire into the whole of this matter, and then they would be prepared to accept the verdict of such Committee. The ratepayers are interested on the one hand and the consumers of water on the other. They would have perfect confidence in the ordinary Forms of this House, and these Bills above all others are not Bills which ought to be rejected upon the Second Beading, but which should be read a second time and then referred to Committee.
§ MR. J. STEWART WALLACE (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)
said, that his constituency considered there was no urgent need in this matter whatever, and their chief reason for so thinking was that the storage supply of this particular Company was almost double that of the average storage of other London Water Companies. Whilst the storage was almost double, the daily supply was over 20 per cent. per head higher than the average of the other Water Companies. His constituents, therefore, said there was no urgency whatever in the matter; and seeing that the Report of the Royal Commission had only been printed so recently the matter should not be pressed further, because no public interest would be endangered or imperilled by the delay. They considered that the time was most inopportune for bringing forward such a Bill, and seeing that the London County Council would probably come to Parliament and ask for powers to enable it to be the Water Authority for London, no possible increase to the charge of the ratepayers should be incurred at present. The case was not of such urgency that the Company should be empowered to raise this additional 1402 capital, seeing that in a comparatively short time the County Council might be seeking to purchase the property. He therefore hoped that the House would oppose the Second Beading of the Bill. He would like, in conclusion, to say a few words in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, who had gone out of his way to introduce much irrelevant matter. The right hon. Gentleman had said that if several parties in the House were sincere in their convictions, they would refrain from voting on this question: and he further declared that if the matter were left to London, there was no doubt what the voice of London would be. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman, Was not the London County Council the voice of London? and the London County Council had in the most unmistakable manner entered their protest against the passing of the Bill.
§ * MR. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had stated that he opposed the Second Beading of the Bill on behalf of his constituency. But the Bill would not affect that district. Limehouse was already freely supplied with water by the particular Company in question: and the district that would be affected was a division in Essex which was not under the London County Council at all. The Chairman of the Essex County Council wrote to The Times the other day condemning the London County Council opposition to the Bill, and expressing the hope that the Bill would pass. He did not deny the adequacy of the water supply of the East London Water Company; but the Bill was not to increase the source of the supply of water, but to provide additional facilities for distributing the water; it was to increase the storage, the reservoirs, the mains, and the agencies for filtration and pumping. Out of the £500,000, £40,000 were to be expended on the extension of the high service reservoirs; £140,000 on the extension of the mains; £80,000 on the pumping arrangements; £45,000 on the filtration beds; £145,000 on additional reservoirs; and the balance of £50,000 was applicable to the various needs of the Company. The hon. Member for Limehouse had also stated that if 1403 the £500,000 were raised by the Company it would be added to the purchase money in the event of the Loudon County Council buying out the Water Companies. But the hon. Member did not know his case well. He forgot that new works could not be reproductive at once, and that there was a clause in another Act, applicable to this Bill, which compelled the Company to give the profits earned in the debenture issue to the Corporation of London, the Corporation to hold them for the benefit of the consumers, or towards providing funds for purchasing the Company if necessary. The profits did not go to the Company at all, and therefore that argument fell to the ground. The hon. Member for Hoxton also said that the London County Council, when they purchased the Company, would not require those new works, and, as the hon. Member put it, would be purchasing "a dead limb." But if the County Council did purchase the Company, they would have to distribute the water, and they could not distribute the water, from whatever source it was supplied, without mains, or without engines for pumping; they could not depend on a single main, which might burst; and they must have reservoirs to store the water, to take advantage of the rainy seasons, and to guard against drought. He presumed that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hoxton would not contend that the Comity Council would give more for two Water Companies than was proposed under the late Mr. Smith's scheme? Very well. The late Mr. Smith, in his proposal for purchase, in 1880, suggested that the debenture-holders of the different Water Companies should receive their income in Stocks of the Purchasing Authority. The Purchasing Authority in this case would be the London County Council. The County Council could raise money at a rate per annum of £2 14s. The East London Water Company could raise money on the Debenture Stock at a rate per annum of 3 per cent. The difference between that amount was 6s. per annum, and that on £500,000 was £1,500 per year, equal to 2d. per annum per house over the whole of the Company's district, or, on 30 years' purchase, capitalised £45,000. That was to say, that in the event of the Loudon County Council purchasing the East London Water Com- 1404 pany's business, they would be buying the actual works which would be created under the powers of this Bill at the actual cost of the works plus 9 per cent., or £45,000 for compulsory purchase. The hon. Member for Hoxton had said the district affected was not increasing. As a matter of fact, its present increase was at the rate of 4,150 houses per annum.
§ MR. J. STUART
I said the district was not increasing, and I gave the exact figures of the engineers of the Company.
§ MR. BANBURY
said, that the exact figures which the hon. Gentleman gave applied to the whole of the district over which the money was not going to be spent. The money was to be spent on the division in Essex, where the number of houses was increasing at the rate of 4,000 per annum. He hoped the House would pass the Bill—first, because water was one of the first necessaries of life, and the Company was bound by its Act of Parliament to supply every house in the district with water; and, secondly, because, if the Company was not permitted to enlarge its works in order to carry out its obligations to Parliament, its stock would be depreciated, and the London County Council would be able to buy out the Company cheaply, which was the real motive at the bottom of this opposition.
§ MR. BENN
said, he must have misheard the hon. Gentleman. But with regard to the question of a water famine, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, complained that the hon. Member for Hoxton had not gone into details with regard to that very important point. The Company in their Report to the Royal Commission made a statement which effectually disposed of the cry of a water famine. They stated that they had made every allowance for a possible increase of supply in their district; and could fur- 1405 nish water adequate in supply and excellent in quality for a period of 40 years, with a large surplus margin. Nevertheless, it might look like an unreasonable thing for the London County Council to ask the House to throw out the Bill. He would, therefore, ask the House to listen to the story of the London County Council's action in the matter. After the Report of the Loyal Commission, the County Council decided to approach the Water Companies in a businesslike way in order to solve the great question of the London water supply. They adopted the following Resolution, which contained the terms on which they were prepared to buy out the Water Companies—That negotiations be entered into for the purchase of the undertakings of the Water Companies, or one or more of them, at a fair and reasonable price, on the basis of a desire to purchase and willingness to sell; having regard to any circumstances and statutory provisions affecting the present and prospective position, income, expenditure, incomes, obligations, and value of the Companies respectively, and their undertakings, including any present and probable future demands for improvements and extensions of works, and new or additional sources of supply, and on the understanding that if satisfactory terms cannot be mutually agreed upon, an application will be made to Parliament to determine in what manner and on what condition a transfer to the Council shall be arranged, provided that no monopoly light on the part of the Water Companies be recognised.He submitted that that was a very fair basis of negotiations between the London County Council and the Water Companies. He challenged the hon. Member for Peckham to produce the reply of the East London Water Company to that application.
§ MR. BANBURY
I am ready to reply. The answer is as follows:—St. Helen's Place, March 10th, 1894.Sir,—I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 5th instant, setting out the resolution recently passed by the London County Council which has been fully deliberated upon by the Directors of this Company, and in reply to the question you ask, I am to state that the Directors do not see their way to enter into negotiations for the sale of their undertaking to the London County Council on the basis indicated in the resolution. The Directors, however, desire me to add that if any definite and practicable proposals are made for the purchase of their undertaking, they will be prepared to give them very careful consideration.
§ MR. BENN
said, it must be obvious to the House that the London County Council suggested a counter-proposal 1406 from the Water Company. The County Council definitely and clearly stated their views, and if those views were not thought sufficiently reasonable by the Water Company the Company ought to have consented to the arbitration that was suggested. The London County Council tried to do what other County Councils had successfully done—namely, in making agreements with the Water Companies, which agreements had been subsequently ratified by the House. The London County Council tried to bring the Water Companies to terms, but the Water Companies seemed determined to have nothing to do with the London County Council. Therefore, the London County Council came to the House and asked the House to take the extreme measure of rejecting the Bill of the East Loudon Water Company. The policy of the Loudon County Council was summed up in the words used by Mr. Speaker 15 years ago, when the great question of the London water supply was introduced by the late Mr. Henry Fawcett—The supply of such a necessity of life as water should be maintained by a Public Body, and that that Public Body should not be subject to the caprice of commercial considerations, or the requirements of shareholders, &c, and to the fluctuations of policy to which such requirements would lead.The object of the Bill was to promote a commercial undertaking, to serve the interests of the shareholders, and not to improve the water supply of London. It aimed at enhancing the value of the Company with a view to the ultimate purchase by the London County Council. That was quite a common thing in the experience of the London County Council. If a new street was to be opened, it was wonderful with what facility buildings were added to buildings in order that the compensation might be as large as possible. He wished also to emphasise the point that if the Company were allowed to make this expenditure, and if the County Council afterwards purchased the Water Companies, an amalgamation would, of course, ensue, with the result that many of those works would be useless. In conclusion, he would quote the words uttered in 1879 by the late Mr. Henry Fawcett, who was a citizen of London—If you place insuperable difficulties in the way of a great reform being carried out, we 1407 will carry out that reform in spite of you; at any rate, we are determined that the people of London shall not for ever be afflicted with the evils connected with the present system of water supply.
§ MR. GROVE (West Ham, N.)
said that, as the Representative of an East London constituency, he felt bound to support the Second Reading of the Bill. It was with regret he ventured to oppose such a body as the Loudon County Council, for whom he had the most profound respect, inasmuch as he considered they had done for the poor of London, for the dignity of the Metropolis, and even for the beautifying of our great capita], more than any other Public Body, not only in this Kingdom, but throughout the whole of Europe. Therefore, it was with regret that he opposed the London County Council, but he did it now with thoroughness as equal as his reluctance. It was a curious thing that the result of Water Company Bills seemed to turn the stream of popular opinion entirely. The Progressive Party became reactionary, and the Reactionary Party became progressive. The effect of the water was to wash black white—he did not object to that—but it also washed white black very often. He thought the tactics of the London County Council were governed by a had and harmful principle. They did not come forward and say resolutely that they would not have this Bill. They first said that when the Royal Commission had terminated they would deal with the question of purchase. But the Royal Commission had now reported that wo had got no "forrider" with the London County Council. They still delayed. He appealed to the common sense of the House, were his constituents to go thirsty because the London County Council could not make up its mind? Were his constituents also to go dirty? This was the second year of a great drought, and if there was a continuation of droughts, which was not at all unlikely, there would be a great danger to the health of his constituency, which numbered nearly 224,000 people, if the supply of water was not adequate and ample. They had heard a great deal of theory from the London County Council. Let him give one ounce of practice. As the Representative of the constituency, West Ham, North, he frequently heard not only from the traders and manufacturers that the supply of water was not 1408 sufficient to carry on trade and business but he heard from the poor, whom he was proud to represent, that they were also in danger of being starved. He thought that statement of fact ought to go a long way against the arguments of the Loudon County Council. He was glad to see that the introduction of the Bill had had a good effect. It had made the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, a thorough Home Ruler. He would point out also that West Ham was outside the area of the London County Council. They should not presume to dictate to the London County Council, controlled as it was by eminent men—[A laugh]—he spoke seriously—if the London County Council confined themselves to the area of their own jurisdiction. What right had the London County Council to go to a place like Essex, and to West Ham, North and South, and say, "We shall manage your water affairs as well as the water affairs of the Metropolis?" Let the Loudon County Council manage their own affairs in the Metropolis as brilliantly and ably as in the past, but let them not interfere in the concerns of areas over which they had no jurisdiction. He would put it to hon. Members from the Sister Island, who may possibly cast their vote against the East London Water Company, how would they like it if the London County Council went to Dublin and said, "We shall manage your water affairs in such and such a way"? That was the case of the people of West Ham, and they insisted that they should have the right to manage their own affairs unintruded upon by the London County Council. It was because he looked upon the action of the London County Council as an unjust usurpation that he supported the Bill. He spoke entirely in the interest of his constituents, numbering 224,000, and not in the interest of the East London Water Company. In fact, if the Bill were read a second time, he intended, if in Order, to move as an Instruction to the Committee that in the event of the purchase of the Water Company by the London County Council—which he hoped would come to pass—the shares now issued should be purchased at par and not at an increased value. That would remove many of the objections which the London County Council had brought 1409 forward. He felt it to be a matter of importance that a Company which might possibly be purchased on behalf of the people should not be overloaded with capital; but because he also felt that the London County Council was encroaching on the rights of bodies over which they had no control, he would cast his vote in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ * COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich)
said, he sympathised with the notion of the Water Companies being purchased by a Water Trust representative of the County Councils concerned, and he had no doubt that some day that object would be effected. The point however was, what was to be done in the meantime? The hon. Member for Hoxton had said they must march with the times; but in that march not oven Water Companies must stand still. For fear of damaging the public interest concerned, and the supply of water, he thought the whole matter should be referred to a Select Committee, whore the London County Council could oppose as much as they liked, and probably with success; and there would be an opportunity for considering whether too much power was being given to the Company, or too large an addition made to the capital of the Company. On the other hand, to deprive a Private Company of the right of placing their case before a Select Committee would be to defeat the Constitutional principle that everybody should be able to put their case before a proper tribunal it was all very well for the London County Council to say that they were only going to oppose the Bill for a year: but this matter would probably go on for 10 years. It involved so many County Councils and such large water schemes that it could not be settled in 12 months. Therefore, to prevent injustice to the Company and any danger to the public water supply, the matter should go before a Select Committee.
§ * MR. CAINE (Bradford, E.)
said, the authority which was responsible for the supply of water to the Metropolis was the various Water Companies. These Companies might be all that had been said of them, but the fact was that London was going to get its water from them in the immediate future, and there was no other source of supply. If the County Council had brought forward a 1410 scheme, or if there was a scheme which the House could look upon as sound and practical, he would vote for its consideration. He had voted against this Bill last year, but he should now vote for it being sent upstairs, as the Report of the Commission was known. The Water Companies who were responsible for the supply of water must from time to time send to Parliament for sanction of schemes, otherwise water could not be supplied. Therefore, he thought that, whatever might be the faults of the Bill—and there were a great many, no doubt, in it—the Water Companies were entitled to the opportunity of showing before a Committee whether the scheme they brought forward was right and necessary. The London County Council could be heard before the Committee. They could bring forward all the evidence they had brought forward to-day—careful and deliberate evidence, not mere statements. It would be hard on the Water Companies if the powers they desired, rightly or wrongly, to acquire should be refused at the dictum of the London County Council. He trusted that before long either the Loudon County Council or the Government would mature a scheme; but, unfortunately, the Government does not seem to have made up its mind, and the County Council has also failed to make up its mind. Therefore, he thought it hard that the only powers which now existed for supplying London with water should be put a stop to by the London County Council. When the Committee had considered the Bill, and had put into it powers for obtaining capital, an opportunity would be afforded to the County Council for bringing the subject again before the House when the Bill came up for Third Reading.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. S. BUXTON,) Tower Hamlets, Poplar
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down, although perhaps not directly interested in this particular Bill, spoke as a Director of the New River Company.
§ * MR. CAINE
said, it was true he was a Director of the New River Company, but he only sat upon the Board as representing an Insurance Company. He had no personal interest whatever in the Now River Company, and he might say that whatever fees he had received he 1411 had parted with to his Insurance Company.
§ MR. S. BUXTON
said, that in regard to these matters they wanted Water Companies and Insurance Companies, and all interests represented in Debate in the House. He had only intended the House to understand that his hon. Friend was connected with one of the interests represented in the Debate. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, especially the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, did not quite appreciate the position taken up by hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House. They argued the case for the Bill as a question of detail, as a matter for examination by a Committee. That was entirely contrary to the position which he, in common with the other opponents of the Bill, took up. They contended that this was not a question of the merits of the particular scheme, but a question of principle, as to whether, before there had been an opportunity of the County Council considering the water supply as a whole, these somewhat smaller matters should be dealt with and decided by a Committee of the House. What was the actual position of the Bill before the House? The Water Companies were coming for powers for a further capital expenditure of £1,750,000, and the House was entitled to say that before such an enormous additional expenditure was sanctioned there should be a proper opportunity of considering the whole question of the London water supply. The Royal Commission had been appointed to report whether any fresh water supply was required for London, and as to the best way of providing it. The case stood in much the same position as last year, for the Commission had only recently reported, and the County Council had not yet had an opportunity of considering the question as a whole. Until the Council had had that opportunity, it was only right that no large expenditure should be carried out to the prejudice of the ultimate settlement. All that was asked was that until that opportunity was afforded—an opportunity which the appointment of the Royal Commission was intended to give—no large expenditure of the kind contemplated in the Bill should take place to prejudice the ultimate settlement of the question of the London water supply.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said, the storage works proposed in the Bill were recommended by the Royal Commissioners as immediately necessary.
§ MR. S. BUXTON
said, that what the Royal Commissioners recommended was that extended storage works, mains, and so on, were required in London, a thing which no one for a moment denied. He did not think, however, that the Royal Commission specifically stated that the particular storage works to which the hon. Member referred were required. It seemed to him that the object of the consideration of the subject by a Royal Commission was to give an opportunity for the consideration of the subject as a whole. He understood that the Council were ready to consent to any reasonable proposal with regard to mains and reservoirs shown to be urgent, but that they were not ready to assent to such an enormous expenditure as that proposed in the Bill, believing that it would have the result of prejudicing the general question. He did not think that the delay of a year would matter, and if the Bill came up next year and the County Council were not then in a position to say what they would do, not having decided upon a line of policy, he, for one, would support the Bill. If the Companies had been able to carry on for 25 years without coming to Parliament, they could surely wait another 12 months. He appealed to the House if any great Corporation in the Kingdom, representing a large body of ratepayers, asked for a year's delay in such an important matter, would the House for a moment deny the claim?
§ SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
said, he would not trouble the House long. He would not have troubled it at all had it not been for an extraordinary observation made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He could not help saying that the reference made by the hon. Member for Tower Hamlets—he might call it the sneering reference—to the hon. Member for Bradford was most uncalled for. Coming from the Government Bench and spoken on behalf of the Government, and when the hon. Member for Bradford had told them but a few minutes before that he had voted against the Second Reading of the Bill last year, such a reference was unworthy, suggesting as it had done that the hon. 1413 Member's vote was influenced by his connection with the New River Company. He would point out, after the details of the Bill had been considered in the Committee upstairs, the Preamble would have to be proved. What said the right hon. Gentleman? He suggested that this Bill was really promoted in order to inflate the value of the shares of the Company in view of possible purchase. What was the expenditure proposed under the Bill?
§ SIR R. WEBSTER
said, that he thought the right hon. Gentleman had adopted the suggestion. If he had not, he (Sir R. Webster) withdrew the statement. The hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Bonn) had made a distinct statement that the proposed expenditure was not required in order to enable the Water Company to fulfil its statutory obligations, but to inflate the value of the shares. No doubt the hon. Member would be candid enough to stand to his guns when that fact was stated. What was the expenditure which would take place under the Bill? It involved three things—reservoirs, filtration, and mains. How possibly could reservoirs, filtration, and mains inflate the capital of the Company? He spoke with some knowledge on this subject, although he regretted to say he had not 6d. in any Water Company in London. Anyone who said that, in a drought such as that of last summer, if a Water Company found itself unable to supply sufficient water to its consumers it could go and obtain it from its source of supply, knew very little about this business, however learned he might be in other matters. No one must imagine that a Water Company could dispense with ample storage reservoirs. He ventured to say that if any Water Company did not maintain an ample and increasing surplus of storage reservoirs, it did not do its duty to its constituents, judging from the experience of the past. Then, as to mains, expenditure in this direction did not mean putting money into the earth which would not earn a return. The Directors were not such fools as to do a thing of that sort. It meant that in those districts growing by their thousands it was absolutely essential that mains and supply pipes should be laid down, so that the consumers could get a proper supply. But the burning 1414 question had been whether or not there had been sufficient and proper filtration; and in order to keep the supply of water in proper condition it was only the duty of the Water Companies to maintain filtration in the highest state of efficiency. These were the questions on which the Water Company had to justify their proposals before the Committee. If the County Council had any real case against the Company, the proper place to examine into it was before a Select Committee, whore the witnesses who supported it could be cross-examined. A point which had been overlooked was this: He should like to know on what ground, either of principle or otherwise, the Loudon County Council had a right to say to the inhabitants of Essex they should not have the improved water supply they desired, and which this Bill proposed to give them? What had been the principle which had been recognised over and over again? Why, that each locality should supply itself with water and have control over its water supply. The)"had had that at Stockton, Middlesbrough, and at Birmingham, and in regard to this Bill the London County Council were arrogating to themselves a position they had no right to assume, and for which there was no precedent. He trusted that, whatever might be done in Committee and when the Bill came back to the House, in the name of fair-play and justice it would now be read a second time. Otherwise an impression would go forth that Her Majesty's Government opposed the Second Reading because they could count on a majority in the House which they could not count upon after the Bill had been examined. Under the circumstances, he hoped the House would see that the whole question was examined and sifted, and this could only take place before a competent Committee, constituted as they liked, where witnesses were examined.
§ MR. CAINE
said that, with the indulgence of the House, he would observe that he had not taken the remark of his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. S. Buxton) in the sense in which it had been understood by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir R. Webster).
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said, he desired to say a word or two in reply to the remarks which 1415 had fallen from the hon. Member for West Ham. The hon. Member had made an appeal well calculated to impress the House on behalf of his constituents, whom, he said, suffered from a scanty supply of water. The hon. Member had asked if his constituents were to be thirsty and dirty because the London County Council could not make up its mind. It was quite true that the people of West Ham had suffered wrong, and had complained of their water supply. The London County Council knew the reason. Complaints having been made to the Council as to the mysterious scantiness of water, they made investigation into the matter, and found that it had been the practice of the East London Water Company to insert a plug in the pipe supplying the cisterns so that the water merely dribbled into them. In individual cases where complaint was made the Company removed the plugs, but had the unparalleled impudence to charge the customer with the cost of the removal.
§ MAJORI RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, he should like to say a word or two from the point of view of his constituents the inhabitants of Essex. He failed to understand the interest taken in the water supply of his constituents by the hon. Member for Hoxton, seeing that for every 100 persons within the jurisdiction of the London County Council supplied by this Water Company there were 1,000 people supplied outside that jurisdiction.
§ MR. J. STUART
said, the hon. Member was mistaken. For every one person supplied in the Essex district two were supplied in the district of the London County Council.
§ MAJOR RASCH
said, that his information was exactly the reverse. They all knew that the object—the plan of campaign—of the County Council in taking so much interest in the water supply of the people of Essex was to cripple the Water Company, so as to be able to buy it up at half-price. The Company had been prohibited from taking any more water from the Lea, and they could not construct reservoirs with- out further capital. He had been Chairman of a Water Company for 10 years, and had some intimate knowledge of the subject. The matter was very simple. The Royal Commission had interdicted the East Loudon Water Company from taking more water from the River Lea, 1416 and therefore the Company had to construct fresh storage reservoirs. This they could not do without raising fresh capital. Even the London County Council would be unable to do so. What with betterment, worsement, taxation of laud values, and looking after the morality of music halls the people of Essex thought the London County Council had their hands too full already, and that they would do well to mind their own business and leave the County of Essex alone. He should vote for the Bill.
§ MR. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said, he should support the Bill. He felt some difficulty in taking that course, as he should naturally be inclined to support the County Council. He also found it a difficulty in supporting a cause championed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's (Mr. Goschen), who had said that he thought Scotch Members—and, he supposed, Irish Members—should not interfere in this matter.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
was understood to say that he had no objection to their voting on this Bill, but that he thought there should be reciprocity.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR
said, that when English Members left Irish business alone, Irish Members would leave English business alone. He could only regret that the right hon. Gentleman made it so difficult for an Irishman to support a cause which he advocated. He (Mr. O'Connor) would wish to help the London County Council within the sphere of their jurisdiction, but he could not follow them into Essex, when he found that the Council for that county were supporting the other side. As an Irish Member he might remind the House that there was a larger Irish population in London than in Dublin, and that a large portion of that population was in the district affected by this Bill. It was for the sake of the poor who lived in the small houses of the district to whom a good and a prompt supply of water was of the first importance that he supported the Bill.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said, it was hardly worth while going in to the merits of the arguments which had been advanced, or even into the details of the Bill. But he would like to reply to the observations of the hon. Member for North West Ham, who had suggested that the London County Council were in 1417 favour of dilatory tactics in this matter, and that they had not submitted any scheme to the Water Companies. Now he ventured to deny that, and to assert that the hon. Member in this matter did not represent his constituency: he simply spoke the views of a few officials who happened to agree with the views of the Water Companies. What were the facts? At the end of a long and exhaustive inquiry the Royal Commission reported in September last. That Report did not reach the London County Council until November, and practically was not submitted to the Council until the beginning of the present year. Thereupon a Committee, assisted by the able engineer of the Council and other officials, drew up a counter Report, which had just been circulated, and which would be found to deal with the matter on fair and reasonable lines. In the circumstances, it did not seem to him that it was unreasonable to ask that the Bill should be road a second time that day six months. The Essex people had compelled the Loudon County Council to take over a large part of their main drainage system, and now apparently wished to dictate the conditions under which the water works should be purchased. The attitude of the Government was, in his opinion, right. The House ought not to allow the Members for Essex to dictate to 5,000,000 people the conditions for the purchase of these water works. The hon. Member for North West Ham had no right to ask the Loudon County Council to be the servant of Essex in respect of the unpleasant parts of its municipal work, and to deny it equal rights in determining under what conditions the water works should be purchased. If the London County Council were to pay the piper they ought at any rate to be allowed to call the tune. He thought the Government had adopted a sensible and correct view. They said that the London County Council, representing as it did an overwhelming majority of the people of London, was not unreasonable in asking that the Bill should be rejected, seeing that as yet it had had no time to consider the Report of the Royal Commission, and that until a definite decision had been arrived at the Directors of the Water Companies and a few Members for Essex ought not to be allowed to dictate to 5,000,000 of people as to the 1418 conditions under which they would purchase the water works.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I will not detain the House many minutes, but I wish to say a word or two on the general principle involved. Perhaps I should preface my observations by saying that I am not a shareholder in any Water Company, and that I speak merely as a ratepayer of London who has learned very much from provincial experience. What is the position of affairs? Sooner or later the London County Council are bound to decide whether or not they will purchase the property of the Water Companies, and I hope that they will purchase. Up to the present, however, they have not come to any decision, neither is there any power which can force them to come to a decision within a reasonable period, and the question for consideration is whether, until they shall have arrived at a final determination, no Water Company in London is to be permitted to increase its capital? The Loudon County Council does put forward a most exaggerated claim in regard to the water question. The Under Secretary for the Colonies says a similar demand by a Provincial Corporation has never been refused. I say unhesitatingly that never has a similar demand for delay been granted on the application of any Municipality. Birmingham has some knowledge of the ways of the London County Council. When Birmingham asked for power to obtain a supply of water from the Welsh hills, saying that within a short time the town would probably suffer from drought, the London County Council opposed the scheme, and averred that the statement was untrue. They said there would be no drought, but there was, which showed how little reliance could be placed on their scientific knowledge. The County Council opposed the scheme, asking for time to enable them to decide whether they might not themselves require the particular water supply which Birmingham had selected. The County Council should make up their minds to deal with the matter now under consideration fairly and speedily. Their demand for delay is monstrous. The hon. Member referred to the experience of Birmingham. Has he taken the trouble to find out what that experience was? I negotiated the purchase of the water 1419 works there. What did we do? We (the Corporation) asked them to come to terms. We were unable to do so. We then stated what price we were prepared to give, and asked the House for compulsory powers of purchase on those terms. That application was refused. We were told to go before an arbitrator, and by agreeing to terms we saved the expenses of an arbitrator.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I think I have been unnecessarily interrupted. I undertake to say that if the representatives of the London County Council are prepared to make the East London Water Company the same offer that was made to the Birmingham Water Company by the Municipality it will be accepted. The right course is for the London County Council to make up their minds as to what is the fair value of the property of the East London Water Company, and to make an offer accordingly. If the terms are refused by the Water Company let the County Council then come to Parliament and ask for official powers. If they do that I will support the Second Beading of the Bill. I think it is monstrous that before taking this course they should seek to interfere with every scheme for the extension of the water supply. I think they have had time to make up their minds. I have never known a Bill to be dealt with in this way before. I must say that it is a most dangerous precedent that a Private Bill should be dealt with in this House upon political considerations.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 228; Noes 227.—(Division List, No. 14.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.