§ MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether, in view of the great danger to health, inconvenience, and discomfort arising to the inhabitants of East London from the insufficient quantity and bad quality of the water supplied to them by the East London Water Company, he proposes to take any, and what, steps in order to enforce upon the company their statutory obligation to give a constant supply?
§ MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said that, before the right hon. Gentleman answered that question, he would ask him another, of which he had given him private notice, whether his attention had been called to the report, dated July 30, of the chief engineer of the London County Council, in which, after the examination of certain facts as to the amount of water supplied by the East London Company before and after the frost of last winter, that gentleman states as his opinion—That what the company are now suffering from is not an insufficiency of supply, but that their pipes became so shattered during the frost of February last as to became so leaky that the water is wasted and does not reach the consumers;and whether he was prepared to make any inquiry as to the correctness of this opinion, and, if it was correct, whether he would take any steps to require the company to put the mains in proper repair?
§ MR. CHAPLIN
With regard to the supplementary question, I am under the impression that the chief engineer of the East London Water Company denies the allegation of the chief engineer of the County Council. But I only received the question of the hon. Member a few minutes before coming to the House, and it has been impossible to refer to the reports. With regard to the question on the paper, I shall repeat the appeal made by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that longer notice should be given of questions which relate to important subjects. In this case the question only appeared this morning. I have been on a commission all day myself, and it has been difficult to get the answer; but I may say it has been a matter of much regret to me that so large a proportion of the inhabitants, and many of them the poorest, of the district included in the limits of supply of the East London Water Company have been put to very serious inconvenience by the limitation of the hours during which a supply was obtainable, and, as I could not but feel that a continuance of this limitation of the supply might be attended with danger to the public health, the condition of things has caused me some anxiety, and the matter has been receiving my constant attention. The difficulty in which the company have been placed has been occasioned by the exceptional drought which existed until very recently and the insufficiency of the means of storage possessed by the company. It is not requisite that I should refer to the circumstances under which Parliament, in 1893, rejected the Bill proposed by the company with a view to obtaining further powers for carrying out the additional works required. I will only say that I am assured that since Parliament granted the necessary powers in 1894 the company have been proceeding as rapidly as possible with the execution of the works which they were fully aware were needed. The water examiner under the Metropolis Water Acts has been in frequent communication with the company, in order that I might be informed precisely of the position of matters, and I have visited some of the poorer localities in the district that I might see for myself how occupiers of small house property were being affected 164 by the difficulty. The company have in a large number of streets set up stand-pipes attached to the mains, which were constantly charged with water, and this has, no doubt, been very helpful to a large number of persons when the ordinary supply was cut off. Allegations have been made as to a very serious increase in the mortality in the district of the water company; but I have caused inquiries to be made on this subject in connection with the returns of the Registrar-General, and I am glad to be able to state that, so far as means of comparison exist, it would appear that the mortality of the district supplied by the company has not been greater than in districts within the limits of supply of other companies where there has been on deficiency in the water supply. As regards the statutory obligation of the company to give a constant supply, I must point out that by Section 15 of the Metropolis Water Act, 1871, it is provided that a company shall not be subject to any liability for not giving a constant supply when the want of such supply arises from unusual drought or other unavoidable cause or accident. I am glad to be able to state that I am informed by the company that they find that through the recent rains they may now safely extend the hours of supply from to-morrow, and that water will be turned on at about six in the morning and left on until about five in the afternoon daily. This is the fullest information I am able to give.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman was personally conducted by the district engineer of the water company when he made his visit.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I believe that the engineer of the company was present, but the person by whom I was conducted I believe was the vestry clerk.