HC Deb 28 July 1896 vol 43 cc820-1
SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board if his attention has been called to the frequent cases in which the London water companies increase their charges for the supply of water, because the increase of the rates has necessitated an increase of rateable assessment, without giving any increase of supply, and to the allegation that the profits of the water companies have been thus greatly increased; and if, in dealing with the water question in the metropolis, he will take care that steps are taken to relieve consumers from this additional burden, and to regulate payment for water by its supply, as in the case of gas and electric light, provision, if necessary, being made for the use of a minimum quantity for sanitary purposes?


The charges which the companies are authorised to make for the supply of water for domestic purposes are regulated by the local Acts of the companies and the Water Rate Definition Act, 1885. They depend to a great extent on the rateable value of the premises supplied. It would no doubt happen that if the rateable value of a house was increased without any circumstances requiring an additional water supply for domestic purposes, the company would benefit by the change. On the other hand, where a house becomes diminished in value, as, for instance, in consequence of a change in the character of the neighbourhood, and the rateable value is reduced, the company lose by the alteration. I have no means of forming an accurate opinion as to the extent to which the different London water companies are affected by such changes. The present system of charge is generally in force throughout the country, not only where the water is supplied by companies, but also where it is supplied by corporations and other local authorities. I may point out that, if the charges for water supplied for domestic purposes were regulated, as suggested, by the amount of water consumed, the effect would be to increase the charges for water supplied to the poorer and more crowded dwellings, whilst it would reduce the charges on the larger houses. I do not feel myself able to give the pledge which my hon. Friend desires.