HC Deb 10 April 1899 vol 69 cc769-72

Amendment proposed— "Clause 2, line 34, leave out ' raise any money required to be contributed by the company, and insert instead the word 'apply.'"— (Mr. Pickersgill.)

MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

I beg to move as an Amendment in line 34 to leave out "raise any money required to be contributed by the company," and to insert the word "apply." In consequence of the action of the right honourable Gentleman we are placed in the inconvenient position of having to discuss Amendments without seeing them on the Paper. But, perhaps the Committee will allow me to explain verbally what is the effect of this Amendment. In the first place the clause as drawn enables a metropolitan water company with the consent of the Local Government Board to raise money required for the purposes of the Act, and that, so far as I know, is an absolute departure from ordinary Parliamentary practice. No water company has hitherto been allowed to raise money without the amount having been specifically approved by the House. The right honourable Gentleman has appealed to the House to proceed with this Bill on the ground of urgency, and if the Amendment would in any way stand in the way of protection to the people of East London from water famine, I would be the last man in the world to move it; but in this, a financial detail, there is no urgency to justify departure from established and salutary practice. The money with which this clause deals is not money which has to be spent on the spur of emergency, such as in the midst of a water famine, but it is money which has to be provided for constructing works in readiness for emergencies, and for purposes which can be carried out when emergencies arise. In the second place, my Amendment would not leave the companies without resources from which necessary expenses could be defrayed, and it provides that companies may apply to the purposes of the Act any money which they have authority to raise under any other Act. The majority of the companies have an ample margin of funds available, and those which have not, have actually money Bills before the House this Session, and in these Bills any additional money required for the purposes of this Act might very well be inserted. I therefore move a preliminary Amendment to leave out the words "raise any money required to be contributed by the company," in order to insert the word "apply."


I wish in the first place to correct a slight inaccuracy on the part of the honourable Member. He was in error in stating there had been no opportunity of giving notice of his Amendment, because intimation that the Bill would be taken on the present occasion was given on the 28th of last month, on which day the House sat at noon, and did not adjourn till nearly eight o'clock.


I meant that the Report of the Committee was not then in our hands.


I am quite ready to admit the honourable Member is perfectly accurate when he says that in water Bills there has always been a clause providing for a sinking fund, and that the plea of urgency on the general progress of the Bill does not apply. But there are good reasons why a sinking fund clause should not be included in this Bill. The whole question was threshed out by a Royal Commission, which, among other recommendations, recommended that in this particular case the provisions as to a sinking fund should not apply, because the works contemplated under the Bill were to be made not on the initiative or will of the companies, but on the initiative and under the orders of the Local Government Board. It was held by the Royal Commission that these were works which, to use their own words, "would not yield revenue or profit for the companies." Under these circumstances it would be a very hard measure to insist on a clause requiring a sinking fund. The honourable Member gave as a further reason in support of his Amendment, that it is quite unnecessary to make this provision because there is an ample margin of funds available already in the case of certain companies, while in regard to the other companies the funds required might be provided for in other Bills now before the House. That is quite true, but what guarantee can he give me as to the time when any one of those Bills will become law. It is of most vital importance that this Bill should become law with the least possible delay, and, with all respect for the honourable Member, I think I have given the Committee adequate reasons for resisting his Amendment.

Amendment put, and negatived.

Clause 2 agreed.

Other clauses added to Bill.

Bill reported without Amendment.


I am going to make an appeal to the House to allow the Bill now to be read a third time. It was not opposed on the Second Reading, and has passed through Committee unamended—


It was not amended because there was no one here to speak on it. I think it is most unreasonable to press it.


I hope it will not be-pressed, for if it is the amiable proceedings of the last few minutes will be brought to naught. The right honourable Gentleman should be satisfied now he has got the Committee stage.



Bill ordered to be read the third time to-morrow.

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