HC Deb 05 April 1894 vol 22 cc1419-25

Order for Second Reading read.

* SIR F. DIXON-HARTLAND (Middlesex, Uxbridge)

, in moving the Second Reading, said, the Bill sought to enlarge the jurisdiction of the Conservators of the Thames. The condition had been imposed upon them that if they did not bring in a Bill this year the London County Council would bring in one next year, and the result of the compromise arrived at had been that the Thames Conservators had brought in the Bill of which he had the honour of moving the Second Reading. The great point in its favour was that it would do away with no less than 32 existing Acts by which the Conservators were governed, going back as far as the reign of James I. The Bill, though not approved by the London County Council, deals with the representation on the Board of the Conservancy, which the London County Council desired to have a larger proportion on the ground that the representation should be in proportion to the population. The promoters of the Bill considered that the riparian owners and others in the upper part of the river had as great an interest in the Thames as those in the lower part, and the Bill would commend itself to all fair-minded people, because it gave fair representation to those who were interested in the upper and lower portions of the Thames. A great many Petitions had been presented against the Bill, and many of them were in reference to the representation on the Board. It was recognised that the Board had been well-managed by their Chairman; but he ventured to say, in reference to the suggestion that the Board should consist of 100 members, that it would be practically unworkable if the representation upon it were increased beyond from 25 to 30. Then with regard to pollution of the river, there was no doubt they asked for large powers in that respect; but he thought those clauses in the Bill were of a rather too arbitrary character and ought to be modified. The larger proportion of the Petitions lodged against the Bill referred to the question of pollution, and sufficient powers in that respect must be given, but he hoped that the clauses for that purpose would be made more satisfactory alike to the agricultural interest and the public. Strong objection had been taken to the inclusion of the tributaries of the Thames. The powers of the Sanitary Authorities would be brought into operation in regard to pol- lution of the River Thames where the Conservators had not considered that to be part of their duty, the surrounding County Councils having hitherto held back from the Conservancy. Those clauses the Conservators were quite willing to have threshed out in Committee, and they hoped the result would be that the water of the river would be kept quite pure, yet without interfering with the agricultural counties and interests in the future more than they had in the past. The great point was that the powers proposed to be given with regard to pollution were larger than they were before; but if it were desired, the Conservators were willing to give up the proposal mentioned, and the course taken by them would, he believed, to a great extent disarm opposition to the Bill. With regard to finance, the proposal was for amalgamation in reference to the upper and lower portions of the Thames, so that the whole river would be under one system of finance, and power would be given to issue £300,000 Debenture Stock, which he thought would be a sufficient sum to put into the hands of the Conservators for carrying out the purposes of the Bill. As to the Water Companies, he hoped they would think better of their threatened opposition to the Bill. They had statutory powers for taking certain quantities of water from the river; but they had been approached in this matter by the Conservancy, and it had been arranged that they should be allowed to take a certain quantity of water out of the Thames under agreement, in order to provide for the increased consumption of their consumers, and the question had been raised whether their claims in that respect were valid or not. The London County Council, no doubt, desired to treat them as invalid, so that they might buy up the Water Companies at a cheaper rate than was possible at present. The promoters considered that this question ought to be dealt with separately, and they had therefore come to an arrangement that whatever powers the Water Companies had should remain as at present. They would not break faith with the Water Companies, but this Bill did not propose to give those bodies greater statutory powers than they now possessed. The House would see, therefore, that the Conservators, while keeping faith with the Water Companies, were acting in the interests of the public. At present the Companies took 110,000,000 gallons daily from the river with power to increase the quantity to 130,000,000. For many years the Conservators had done all they could to preserve the purity and improve the navigation of the Thames, and no-body could have done its duty better, and the clearest testimony had been given that they had fully done their duty towards the public. They had not sold their water to the Water Companies. They had spent certain sums for the benefit of those Companies, but had in return received money from them for carrying out necessary works. The Conservators had certainly prevented a large amount of pollution; had equalised the flow of the river; and had secured a constant supply in summer by widening and deepening the reaches, and by other works. This Bill ought, in the circumstances, to be read a second time, and referred to a Select Committee for thorough examination and amendment rather than be thrown out now on Second Beading. The Conservators had no wish whatever to oppose the provisions of the Bill being thoroughly threshed out; on the contrary, they only desired to carry it through for the good of all who were interested in the Thames, considering not only the interests of the people of London, but those of the populations of Richmond, Reading, Oxford, and other places upon its banks. It must not be forgotten that the Counties of Gloucester, Wilts, Berks, and Bucks were equally interested with Middlesex in this matter, and the Conservators considered that the acceptance by the House of such a scheme as this would do equal justice to all. It would throw enormous work upon the Conservators, but he hoped it would be accorded a Second Reading, and that on reaching Committee it would be put in a, shape which would be satisfactory to all.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir F. Dixon-Hartland.)

* MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

said, he would not oppose the Second Reading, because, as the hon. Member in charge of the Bill had explained, the reasons which had led to the proposed opposition had been removed by the arrangement come to between the London County Council and the promoters of the Bill. The grounds of the opposition were that it was proposed to give larger statutable powers to the Water Companies than they had at present in reference to drawing water from the Thames. Those Companies had lately claimed increased rights under agreements of which the validity was disputed. However, he would not then go into the questions either of the validity of those agreements or the statutable rights of the Companies. Whatever their legal rights might be, they would not be interfered with in any sense by the Bill. That was the understanding arrived at with the promoters, and an Instruction to the Committee had been drawn up. If this Bill were not passed the bringing in of another would devolve on the London County Council, and it was therefore not their desire that it should be prevented from going to a Committee. But though not opposing the Second Reading, it must not be understood that the County Council approved of the Bill. On the contrary, there was a great deal in it of which they entirely disapproved. However, the framework was there, although he feared it was incapable of being made in Committee into a Bill which would carry their support, and they therefore desired to reserve power to themselves to oppose it if necessary on the Report stage or Third Reading if the various provisions to which the County Council objected were not amended in Committee. Many questions would arise, and, among others, that of the money which the Conservators required. As in the other respect referred to, the Bill left everything absolutely in statu quo, he would withdraw the opposition to the Second Reading, and move the Instruction which had been agreed upon between the promoters of the Bill and those whom he represented.

SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)

wished, as a Surrey man, to be allowed to say a few words. He was very glad the hon. Member for Hoxton had been good enough to withdraw his opposition to the Bill in which the Division of the County of Surrey that he had the honour to represent was greatly interested. The people there had come to the conclusion that in matters of this kind they ought to object to representation going by population instead of according to area, for by the application of that doctrine they would have greater authority and would prevent others having an undue amount of control over the lower Thames. Though they were profoundly concerned and somewhat anxious in this matter, they nevertheless desired to refrain at present from criticising this measure, because they had an honourable understanding with the promoters of the Bill that various Amendments would be accepted in Committee. In that expectation they had instructed him to recommend to the House that the Bill should be allowed a Second Reading.


, upon the question of representation on the Board, said, the shipowners of London paid in dues about £46,000, which was about half the whole sum expended on the River Thames between Staines and the estuary, and their interest certainly was inferior to none. They had no desire to oppose the Bill on Second Reading, but would appear before the Committee and do their best to amend it, and put it in a more suitable shape. He was instructed to explain to the House that they did not accept the Bill as a settlement. He hoped a Bill would be brought in at some future time which would give to the merchants and the shipowners of the Port of London a predominant control over the lower Thames. He considered that the City of London had a predominating interest in this matter, and should have a corresponding influence upon any Board of Control. Emphasising that they did not regard this by any means as a final settlement, he would not then trouble the House further or oppose the Second Reading.

SIR W. HART-DYKE (Kent, Dartford)

said, his constituents were much exercised with regard to their future under the Bill. To millowners the question of the Companies taking water from the river was of extreme importance. As the Bill now stood very harsh measure might be meted out to millowners and others. With every desire to prevent undue pollution, he was sure no Member of the House would wish to injure their vested interests unnecessarily in any shape or way, and he would urge that, assuming the Bill went to a Com- mittee, his constituents and others who were interested as respondents should have the power of modifying certain of its provisions as far as they deemed necessary consistently with carrying out the main objects of the Bill.


said, it was desired to increase the flow of water rather than to diminish it, and the promoters had no wish to interfere with the interests of the millowners. Some of the conditions appeared very hard indeed, and, as far as he was concerned, he would be prepared to do his best to assist mill-owners and the interests connected with agriculture. He could only say he would do all he properly could to have the Bill modified in those respects in Committee.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.

MR. J. STUART moved— That it be an instruction to the Committee on the Bill that no further powers of taking water from the River Thames than may now be legally exercised be given by the Bill to the Water Companies, and that, as far as necessary, the Bill be amended to give effect to this Instruction."—(Mr. J. Stuart.)

Motion agreed to.