A local authority may aid any water consumer in obtaining the determination of any question which appears to the local authority to be of interest to water consumers with respect to the rights, duties, and liabilities of any of the metropolitan water companies, or otherwise with respect to the supply of water given and the charges made by the metropolitan water companies; and may take such legal
proceedings as appear to the local authority necessary or expedient for the protection of the interests of water consumers with respect to the matters aforesaid.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
moved to add at the end of the clause,—A local authority aiding any legal proceedings under this section may, if the Court thinks fit, be made a party to the proceedings, and shall be liable for costs accordingly.Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said this was the most important clause in the Bill—in fact, the only clause of value. He wished to know how far is would be operative in cases of deficiency of water supply which were not due to the fault of the consumer and perhaps not actually due to the fault of the water company. The other day there was a deficiency in one of the metropolitan parishes which was due to certain climatic causes, and more recently still there had been a case where the deficiency was due to some fault in the pipes, for which fault some outside party was responsible. If the companies would be liable under this Bill for deficiencies due to causes of that kind, the Bill would be of some value. The inconvenience caused in such cases could seldom be assessed pecuniarily, because there was generally no actual monetary loss caused by the deficiency. But the inconvenience caused was nevertheless very real, and some remedy ought to be provided. He wished to know, therefore, whether, when there was a deficiency which was not directly due to the action of a water company, the ratepayers were to have any redress?
§ MR. CHAPLIN
explained that the object of the clause was to enable local authorities to support private individuals in cases where a water company had disregarded any of its statutory duties. When there had been any breach of a statutory duty, complaint could be made to the local authorities, and the ratepayer who made the complaint could then be supported by the power and influence of the local authorities. The Railway Commissioners would have to judge whether there really had been a breach of statutory duties, and if they held that there had, they could exercise their powers, which were considerable, to compel the performance of those 585 duties. He did not doubt that this power which was to be given to the local authorities would be a great and important weapon for compelling the due performance by the companies of their statutory duties.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 3,—